Militant attacks rock Saudi capital
A SERIES of co-ordinated strikes left the heart of Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, strewn with crumpled cars and broken glass and left at least seven suspected militants dead last night, two weeks after Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda chief, called for more attacks on his homeland.
The violence included a clash between Saudi security forces and militants who fired small arms and threw grenades in a northern district of the capital, police said. Al-Arabiya television reported seven militants were killed in the shootout.
Earlier, two militants detonated a car bomb by remote control in a traffic tunnel near the Interior Ministry in Riyadh. Saudi TV reported that a bystander, a limousine driver, was killed. The ministry, a modern, high-rise building, was shown on television with few signs of damage. Damaged cars, including a blood-splattered taxi, sat outside.
Half an hour after the first blast and five miles away, a second explosion went off at a centre for recruiting emergency troops, police said. Saudi television said two guards and two bystanders, described as foreigners, were injured.
The police official said two suicide bombers were trying to storm the centre, but blew up their car prematurely after police fired on them.
The bombings came late in the evening, when few people would have been in the targeted buildings. An Interior Ministry official said a number of police were injured in the explosions. Abdel Rahman al Sewilem, head of the Saudi Red Crescent Society, told Saudi TV four or five people were injured. He did not say whether they were police, attackers or bystanders.
Previous attacks had appeared designed to maximize casualties, many of them often Arab and Muslim. A nighttime attack focused on targets associated with the Saudi security forces could have been meant to underline militants’ opposition to the government and avoid criticism that the extremists did not value Arab and Muslim lives.
Early yesterday, a suspected militant was killed in Riyadh after tossing a bomb and shooting at security agents, according to a security official. On Tuesday, another suspect and a bystander were killed in a shootout in the same area of Riyadh, according to an Interior Ministry official. One suspect was captured in that attack.
Bin Laden’s tape earlier this month was his first message directed specifically at Saudis in years, and was issued ten days after militants attacked the United States consulate in Jeddah, killing nine people.
The al-Qaeda leader praised those who carried out the consulate attack and urged his followers to attack the kingdom’s oil installations to weaken both the West and the Saudi Royal Family.
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