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U.S., Britain closing embassies in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh confirms three al Qaeda suspects arrested

Saudi policemen stand guard in a tent set outside the Jadawel compound, one of the three complexes attacked in Riyadh.
Saudi policemen stand guard in a tent set outside the Jadawel compound, one of the three complexes attacked in Riyadh.

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- The United States and Great Britain will temporarily close missions in Saudi Arabia in response to intelligence reports of "imminent" terrorist attacks, both nations announced Tuesday.

The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and U.S. consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran will close Wednesday and stay shuttered at least through Saturday, the State Department said.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Saudi security officials confirmed that three suspected al Qaeda militants have been arrested in Jeddah.

They are not thought to have been involved in the Riyadh bombings that killed 25 people, including eight Americans, and nine bombers last week, but officials believe the three suspects have information about the attacks.

The three suspects were on the Saudi most-wanted list and are believed to be linked to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the officials said.

The identities of the suspects have not been revealed. They were arrested boarding a flight to Sudan, Saudi security officials said.

The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh said on its Web site: "The embassy continues to receive credible information that further terrorist attacks are being planned against unspecified targets in Saudi Arabia."

Using almost identical language, the British Foreign Office announced it would temporarily close its embassy in Riyadh and two other missions in Saudi Arabia. (Full story)

The German Foreign Ministry said its embassy would remain open, but the consular section of its embassy in Riyadh and the German Consulate in Jeddah would be closed through Friday.

Meanwhile, other European ministers were warning that dormant Islamic terrorist cells could strike at any time. (Full story)

The suspected al Qaeda attackers, who struck May 12 with triple car bombings on mostly expatriate housing, were planning a much bigger operation, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi ambassador to the United States, said Monday. It is believed that some of those who carried out the bombings survived and fled, and the suspected planners of the attacks are thought to still be in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to reporters in Riyadh, the prince referred to electronic "chatter," or signals from various sources that intelligence officials listen to regularly.

The chatter strongly suggests that something -- it is not clear what -- might be in the works, analysts said.

Four other people, believed to be linked to al Qaeda, have been detained in connection with the Riyadh attacks, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz said Monday, adding that each had prior knowledge of the bombings. (Full story)

During the past few days, various officials in Riyadh, including the U.S. ambassador, have said al Qaeda operatives or other groups in the kingdom might be preparing to strike again.

Saudi Arabia's terrorism threat level is at its highest ever in the wake of the Riyadh bombings, Saudi intelligence sources said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised the national terror threat level to orange, or "high," Tuesday.

Administration officials said the decision was made because of the recent bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and because of intelligence chatter indicating the possibility of terror attacks in the United States.

Both the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in publications last week that the Riyadh attacks bore the "traditional hallmarks" of al Qaeda operations, such as hitting several targets and being precisely timed.

A team of FBI, CIA and State Department agents and experts is in Saudi Arabia assisting in the investigation. U.S. officials said they are getting good cooperation from the Saudis -- despite comments from the Saudi interior minister saying the agents could only monitor, not investigate.

Government officials said the team is focused on gathering forensic evidence from the attack scenes. U.S. and Saudi officials were trying to determine whether the Saudis or the Americans will test evidence.

U.S. officials would like to test evidence in an American laboratory, but said they are willing to leave evidence in Saudi Arabia if experts there can ensure it is preserved for possible use in later court actions.

-- CNN senior international correspondent Sheila MacVicar, Justice correspondent Kelli Arena and producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


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