From the Independent, :
Al-Qa’ida terrorists whose suicide bombs killed 35 people and injured 200 at a housing compound in Riyadh last May were secretly assisted by certain members of the Saudi National Guard which protects the royal family, military trainers employed by a US firm have claimed.
In exclusive interviews with The Independent on Sunday, the former trainers for the Vinnell Corporation, which has an $800m (Â£460m) contract to advise the Saudi National Guard, allege:
* Some members of the Saudi National Guard knew about the bombing in advance and gave inside help to al-Qa’ida, including possibly a detailed map of the target.
* An “exercise” organised by the national guard removed 50 of 70 security staff for the day of the bombing, thus leaving the compound “defenceless”.
* Security was generally lax, with machine guns unloaded and guards unarmed.
* Vinnell and the Saudis were given detailed, repeated warnings that Islamic militants were planning an attack, but did nothing to upgrade security.
These claims will renew the controversy over the failure of the Saudi royal family to deal with Islamic insurgents. In recent weeks al-Qa’ida has renewed its attacks on Western targets in Saudi Arabia which have killed several British workers. …
The bombing on 12 May 2003 was implemented with precision based on meticulous intelligence. Lt-Col Raphael Maldonado, then a Vinnell instructor, claims al-Qa’ida received inside assistance from National Guard members. “This compound was too big and complex to be bombed without inside help”, he said. He points to the discovery of a detailed map in the car left behind by the assailants and an improvised ladder consisting of concrete blocks and the trace of shoe markings made by people rushing to escape just before the explosion.
On the morning of the atrocity, Lt-Col Maldonado noticed that none of his Saudi co-workers was present. A fellow Vinnell adviser angrily told him that a Saudi National Guard commander had suddenly notified him that they were leaving the compound to per- form night manouevres with 50 trainers. “I don’t understand why they are suddenly going into the field for just one night,” he told Lt-Col Maldonado, who was even more concerned when he drove past the local mosque at noon and noticed far fewer shoes outside the door than usual.
Lt-Col Maldonado believes that removing 50 of the 70 Vinnell trainers on what he claims was a “pointless” and unscheduled expedition 40 miles away just before the bombing, was deliberate, leaving the compound defenceless. “There is no doubt we were set up,” he said. “Someone in the upper echelons of the Saudi National Guard knew the bombing was imminent.” …
The Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayef, condemned the bombing and called for public assistance in capturing 19 suspects. But the reaction showed how al-Qa’ida has retained support. Three prominent clerics declared the terrorists were “devout” men and called on people to disobey the regime’s request. They said any help to the police would constitute aid to the US in its “war against Islam”. Ten of the suspects remain at large.