Bin Laden Strikes again – in Riyadh

After midnight Monday, May 12, Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network struck the United States and Saudi Arabia with devastating effect. In a multiple, multi-layered terrorist operation plotted as carefully as any military raid, small suicide squads hit three gated and guarded estates housing westerners in Riyadh and an American-Saudi partnership office – hours before US secretary of state Colin Powell flew in for a visit. The perpetrators displayed high skills in planning, intelligence, mobility and execution.
The elite locations populated by foreign expatriates including many Americans that came under attack were Garnata, Cordoba and Ishbiliya. All sheltered behind concrete walls, electronic detectors and automatic sensors, their two or three gates guarded by armed men who opened cement road barriers only to vehicles whose drivers presented keys with the correct coded electronic signal. Drivers of unidentified cars had to step out and approach the guards who searched them and their vehicles.
The terrorists overcame this formidable security system by having several small teams strike at different points in each estate with ferocious fire and explosive power. While one group killed the guards and smashed the gates, one or more Mercedes packed with explosives and suicide terrorists drove round the other side and rammed the estates’ perimeter walls. The next team drove into the estates through the hole. Once in, vehicles loaded with cans of gasoline as well as explosives blasted high-rise buildings, killing many of their residents and leveling entire streets. Another group of terrorists rode into the damaged compounds and massacred survivors by spraying the interiors of still standing buildings with automatic fire, hand grenades and fuel bombs. Some witnesses heard the firing going on 10 minutes after the explosions. When their ammunition ran out, the killers detonated bomb belts.
No definitive official information has been released thus far on casualties. debkafile‘s counter-terror experts estimate a very high toll running to scores. After the first-wave assaults, few could have survived the fierce heat and vacuum generated in their apartments by the second-wave gasoline blasts which tore the facades off their buildings and sucked them out.
This method was a replay of the al Qaeda tactic first seen seven years ago when a truck bomb crashed into the Khobar Towers housing the US military personnel (with families) securing the oil fields of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Provinces. The unofficial toll then was put at 19 American servicemen killed and 500 injured – some very gravely. To this day, no American or Saudi official has openly attributed that atrocity to al Qaeda. However, it is hard to miss the re-appearance in Riyadh of the same expertise and operational features as were exhibited in Khobar.
The latest outrages tie in closely with the shootout between Saudi security and a large group of terrorists that took place in the Saudi capital less than a week ago on May 7. Saudi intelligence sources admit this was the fourth battle Saudi security men had fought with terrorists in Riyadh in recent weeks, but the first three were never officially released. Even in reporting the last clash, the Saudi ministry of interior focused mainly on the large cache seized of explosives, weapons and ammunition, although it could not avoid publicizing the names and photos of the 19 gunmen who got away, 17 of them Saudi nationals. So acute is the security crisis in the Saudi capital that for the first time ever, its police published an appeal for public help in capturing the wanted men, including even a cash reward.
Subsequent leaks from Saudi sources showed the incident to have been more dangerous and audacious than first reported: an attempt by Al Qaeda to assassinate the pro-American Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan, third in the line of succession to the throne, and his brother, Interior Minister Prince Naif, who is also in command of internal security in the kingdom. debkafile has not confirmed this account, but has discovered that the large-scale battle in Riyadh on May 7 was not the start of the episode but its outcome. The assailants did indeed mount an assassination attempt against “a leading Saudi figure” the day before on May 6. The battle developed after the plot was aborted and the assassins were in flight from pursuit.
By then, neither the Saudi nor American security authorities could overlook the fact that Riyadh was teeming with many hundreds of al Qaeda operatives preparing for a fresh offensive against US and Saudi targets. Oil fields and facilities, airports and airliners are now believed to be in their sights.
According to debkafile‘s terror experts, this fresh offensive has not been orchestrated by a new al Qaeda leadership as has been claimed; Bin Laden and his veteran lieutenant, the Egyptian Dr. Ayman Zuwahri are still firmly in the saddle. Our sources concur that Monday night’s strikes in Riyadh were the opening shots of an extensive terror campaign. Recruits discovered in the fundamentalist network’s ranks in the last two weeks include Muslim-Americans, Muslim-Canadians and Saudi army troops who have gone over to al Qaeda. Clearly, the terrorist organization’s command capabilities – far from declining, show improved operational skills, undiminished by the capture of key al Qaeda figures in recent months, especially in Pakistan. The intelligence obtained from those captives did not forewarn American counter-terror agencies against al Qaeda’s coming plans.
According to the latest information reaching us, the strike teams in Riyadh also numbered Iraqi and Yemeni terrorists.

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