Bombers Strike Ministry of Interior

Bombers Strike Ministry of Interior

By Sabria S. Jawhar and Rob L. Wagner

The Saudi Gazette

December 30, 2004

Two suicide bombers timing their attacks about an hour apart struck the capital Wednesday evening targeting the Ministry of Interior and a troop training center.

At least four police officers were reported wounded and one bystander was killed in the Ministry of Interior attack. Up to five civilians living near the training center sustained injuries, according to a security source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Later, security forces raided a house in northern Riyadh and killed seven suspected militants believed to have been involved in the bombings. The raid followed a running gun battle shortly after the blasts. The alleged extremists used small arms and hand grenades during the chase. Ministry of Interior Brig. Gen. Monsour Al-Turki could not say if any security men were reported killed or injured.

The blasts appear to be part of stepped-up attacks on targets in Riyadh and Jeddah. Two weeks ago Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden issued a message urging extremist cell leaders in Saudi Arabia to focus their activities on the Kingdom.

Bin Laden’s tape was his first message directed specifically at Saudis in years, and it was issued 10 days after the Dec. 6 militant attack at the US consulate in Jeddah that left nine people dead, including five non-US employees of the consulate.

The explosions also followed a series of clashes between suspected terrorists and security men late Tuesday and Wednesday in Riyadh and Jeddah that left two suspected militants dead, two arrested and one wounded.

The Wednesday evening blast at the Ministry of Interior in Al-Maazar District at Dabbaba Street occurred at about 8:35 p.m. when a vehicle attempted to crash the outer northeastern gate at the Ministry bridge near the offices of Mohammed Bin Naif, assistant to the Ministry of Interior.

Ministry spokesman Turki told Al-Ekhbaria television that the explosion appeared to have occurred on the main street between the Ministry building and the former Public Safety Department. Associated Press reported the car bomb at the Ministry was detonated by a suicide bomber. Saudi officials say both vehicles were exploded by suicide bombers.

“Both cars were rigged and both were attempted suicide bombings which failed,” one Saudi security officer said. “They tried to penetrate the security cordon of the Ministry of Interior and were deterred … The car exploded in the middle of the road and they never made it inside the compound.”

The blast blew out the windows of the Ministry and nearby businesses. It also damaged the wall of the Ministry. The vehicle did not breach the Ministry compound because it was sealed by concrete blocks and guards. Ministry offices were evacuated.

The blast was felt in neighborhoods as far away as Olaya, Hai Al-Wazarat and Batha.

“I thought something was wrong when I heard the huge sound, which shook the glass panes of my shop,” said a Saudi storekeeper in Hai Al-Wazarat District.

Security men closed off roads leading to the Ministry and the Intercontinental Hotel.

Dozens of ambulances, military, fire brigade and police vehicles rushed to the Ministry. Four ambulances were seen leaving the Ministry area while helicopters hovered overhead.

The multi-storied, glass-enclosed Ministry building had been heavily fortified since the May 12, 2003, bombings of the residential compounds in Riyadh There has been some relaxation of security in past months when authorities removed checkpoints in four directions of the building. But about a month ago the checkpoints were re-established and roadblocks were further fortified.

Details were sketchy at the recruitment center, but the security source said perhaps “four to five non-Saudis living near the center – about 10 kilometers away from the Ministry building – were injured in the explosion in the Al-Seli District. They were transported to local hospitals where it is believed their injuries were not life threatening. That blast occurred about 9:30 p.m.

The bombings followed a series of security operations that left one suspected terrorist shot dead earlier Wednesday, bringing the number of extremists slain to two over the past two days.

In the 48-hour police operation before the Riyadh bombings, two militants also were captured and one wounded in three separate shootouts with security forces in Riyadh and Jeddah.

On Tuesday two alleged terrorists in Riyadh opened fire from their car when security forces approached them near a gas station. Police returned fire, killing one and wounding another. A bystander also was killed in the shooting.

As Riyadh security men were combing the area Wednesday, a gunman opened fire and hurled a hand grenade from his car. The attacker was cornered and shot dead. Four security men were injured in the gun battle.

In a separate incident early Wednesday, security forces in Jeddah also arrested a suspected militant. The alleged extremist was injured while attempting to escape.