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Saudis open door to more U.S. investigators

Bush: Bombings remind that U.S. is 'still at war' with terrorists

Men leave a Riyadh mosque after Friday prayers in which the bombings were condemned as the work of renegades.
Men leave a Riyadh mosque after Friday prayers in which the bombings were condemned as the work of renegades.

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An FBI team has arrived and the Saudis will allow a second team of investigators into the country.
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U.S. officials are more convinced than ever that al Qaeda was behind the suicide bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
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CNN's Bill Hemmer talks to a former expatriate about his experiences in Saudi Arabia.
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The widow of a victim of the bombing attack talks about her husband.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the investigation into the Riyadh terror attacks intensifying, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let a second team of U.S. investigators -- most of them FBI agents -- into the country, CNN learned Friday.

Eight Americans were among the 25 people killed by the near-simultaneous car bombings of three residential compounds Monday. Nine bombers also died in the attack.

Sources said this second team of investigators -- expected to arrive in Riyadh late Friday or Saturday morning -- includes field agents, forensic experts, bomb and lab technicians, and management personnel.

Officials would not disclose the number of additional agents going in, but did say the second group is mostly made up of FBI agents.

"We have some people on the ground there, and we have other individuals who will be arriving to supplement that, which we are doing to assist the Saudis in their conduct of the investigation, and to be part of the investigation from the American perspective," Attorney General John Ashcroft told reporters at a Justice Department news conference.

The second team will join the first group of U.S. investigators that arrived in the Saudi capital Thursday.

A government official said it looks like the Saudis have done "an exceptional job processing the crime scenes." The official said the Saudis pursued the investigation around the clock.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told reporters that the indication from FBI agents in Saudi Arabia is that "the initial investigation undertaken by the Saudis has been thorough, expeditious, and as I say we're there to help them continue that investigation."

The team that is there has acted as liaison between Saudi officials and U.S. Embassy personnel but has done little investigating, officials said. Its role was to assess the needs for the investigation.

Official: 'It's a scary time'

President Bush said Friday that the Riyadh attacks gave many people around the world a "wake-up call" that the war on terror continues. From the White House, Bush said the attacks were a reminder that the United States is "still at war."

"The best way to secure the future of the American people is to find the killers before they strike us, and that's what we're doing inside Saudi Arabia," Bush said.

Bush blamed "a group we think is al Qaeda" for the attacks. U.S. officials believe the terrorist network, run by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, was responsible.

Although the United States has "brought to justice about half the key al Qaeda operatives," Bush said, some still remain at large. "We'll have them, one at a time."

But a U.S. official told CNN on Friday, "It is starting to feel a lot like the summer of 2001," when the U.S. intelligence community was "hearing a lot of chatter about a big attack. ... It's a scary time."

"There is a surprising level in al Qaeda communication, and we are learning a lot more about al Qaeda and the potential links to cells out there that we didn't know previously existed," the official said. Although the attacks could come anywhere, the biggest areas of concern are East Asia -- particularly Indonesia and Malaysia -- as well as East African and the Persian Gulf region, the official said.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department warned of an unconfirmed report of a possible terrorist attack planned in a Western neighborhood of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The threat specifically mentioned Jeddah's Al Hamra district, an area in which some U.S. consular workers and their families live. Those families have "relocated to different quarters." Jeddah is about 525 miles [840 kilometers] west of Riyadh. (Full story)

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's foreign policy adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir, angrily denounced the attacks Friday, and said his country would do "whatever we need to do, unilaterally or with the support of our friends, in order to ensure that this does not happen again."

He said Saudi Arabia was cooperating fully with the United States in the war on terrorism because the two countries "are in the crosshairs of this murderous organization called al Qaeda."

Al-Jubeir dismissed criticism that Saudi Arabia did not act on a warning that Western compounds could be targeted as "Monday morning quarterbacking."

He said that there are hundreds of compounds in the country -- which he said were more like gated communities than armed garrisons -- and that authorities were evaluating their security measures when the attacks took place.

Other developments

• Saudi officials have told reporters that they suspect a Saudi al Qaeda member named Khaled Mohammed Musallam al Jehani was the ringleader of the Riyadh attacks. U.S. officials said they do not have information to back up the assertion, but they would not rule it out. U.S. officials said they believe al Jehani has been in Saudi Arabia recently and "could very well have played a key role." But U.S. intelligence is looking at "a couple of other core al Qaeda types as well," one official said.

• A leading Saudi dissident who broadcasts a nightly radio newscast from London into Saudi Arabia said he is certain that bin Laden gave the "green light" for the attacks in Riyadh. Saad al-Fagih said the bombings in the Saudi capital are "most probably the beginning of an al Qaeda campaign within Saudi Arabia."

-- CNN correspondents Kelli Arena, Mike Brooks, David Ensor, John King, Kathleen Koch and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.


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