From the Times Online: more radical attempts to strong-arm the House of Saud. Note the fact that the self-proclaimed bombers position themselves as the defenders of Islam.
An extremist group linked to al-Qaeda has purportedly claimed responsibility for yesterday’s deadly suicide bomb in Riyadh.
At least four people were killed and 148 injured when a car driven by a suspected suicide bomber exploded, destroying the Saudi security services headquarters in the capital.
A statement published on an Islamic web site today read: “The Brigade of the Two Holy Mosques in the Arabian Peninsula has succeeded in blowing up the headquarters of the special security and anti-terrorism forces related to the interior ministry.
“The explosion totally destroyed the targeted building and killed and wounded tens of soldiers, officers and commanders of the criminal and apostate organisation.”
The radical group has made several such claims in the past.
It was the worst terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia since suicide bombings that killed 50, including nine Americans, at residential compounds for Westerners last year. It was also believed to be the first terrorist bombing of a Saudi Government target rather than a Western one.
The statement said that the attack was launched against those who “are aggressive against Muslims, kill the Mujahidin, imprison the ulemas (religious scholars), the reformists and the young”
It went on to insist that the group “will not forget the blood of the martyrs” in the anti-terror hunt by Saudi security forces in the kingdom, and added: “Our wounds can only be healed by jihad (holy war).”
Addressing the “tyrants” in Saudi Arabia, the group warned that yesterday’s attack “is only one punishment technique that we are going to inflict on you. These techniques will not stop, (and will materialise) through explosions, assassinations and other forms of vengeance,” the statement said.
“If the brave Mujahidin of the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, for whom God has assured victory … stops attacking you … (in favour of) the occupier war by the crusaders … we will devote ourselves to inflicting on you the price for apostasy, crime and corruption,” the statement claimed.
The attack was mounted yesterday by a suicide bomber who drove up to a protective barrier outside the six-storey building in the capital and exploded his bomb after he was challenged by guards, one witness said.
The explosion was heard at least three miles away. It tore off the building’s faÃ§ade, ignited fires and gutted dozens of vehicles. A huge cloud of black smoke and dust covered the immediate area.
The city had been on high alert after five other large car bombs were intercepted in recent days and after the deaths of several Saudi policemen killed in gun battles with militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades.
“We succeeded in preventing five like this and one got through,” an Interior Ministry source said.
The building was believed to be the headquarters of the Saudi domestic security service, whose officers have been in the front line in the kingdom’s crackdown on Islamic militants. It was an establishment target that suggested that the terrorists were now seeking a direct confrontation with the Saudi state.
Last month an internet message purportedly from al-Qaeda threatened Saudi police, intelligence service workers and other security agents, saying that to target them “in their homes or workplace is a very easy matter”.
The attack yesterday seemed to send the signal that if the terrorists could hit such an obvious target, despite increased security in the city and numerous roadblocks, they could strike anywhere in the world’s biggest oil-producing country.
The Brigade has previously claimed responsibility for blowing up a Saudi security officer’s car outside his home in Riyadh in December, and gave warning that it would “liquidate” anyone who passes on information to the Saudi authorities to help the kingdom capture armed extremists.
The internet statement today will be analysed for authenticity by local and foreign intelligence agencies, who must determine whether the attack was the work of desperate and outmanoeuvred militants, or if it signals a greater threat to the country than was realised.
“Every time the security forces seem to be making a difference, either a new cell is uncovered or there’s a shoot-out or there’s a bombing,” one analyst said.
The Saudi authorities have been involved in a determined crackdown on al-Qaeda-linked militants inside the kingdom since the first devastating attack on a residential compound last May, which killed more than 30 people, including two Britons. Scores of militants have been killed in raids and gunfights, hundreds of others have been arrested and weapons caches seized.
American officials have praised recent Saudi efforts against the militants. Earlier they had expressed disquiet at the country’s perceived tolerance for radical Islam – 15 of the 19 September 11 suicide hijackers were Saudi nationals. Last week, one of Saudi Arabia’s most-wanted al-Qaeda militants, in a video carried on an Islamist website, called on Muslims to kill Americans everywhere and vowed attacks against Arab leaders allied to Washington.
The latest carnage will worry the 25,000 Britons in the kingdom, but they have become resilient to the terrorist threat and are used to taking measures for their personal security. Many live in fortress-like compounds, vary their routes to work and check under their cars for bombs before they get in.
The latest “wardens’ notice” posted on the British Embassy web site earlier this month, said that “terrorists remain determined to carry out further attacks in Saudi Arabia. These may be in the final stages of preparation.”
Last week the United States ordered the departure of non-essential government employees and their relatives from Saudi Arabia. It also urged private citizens to leave.