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Saudi minister says al-Qaida behind bombs

Sunday, June 8, 2003

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- For the first time, the Saudi interior minister linked last month's Riyadh bombings to the al-Qaida terror network in an interview published Saturday, and his ministry identified 12 of the attackers.

Prince Nayef said 25 people so far are in custody in connection with the May 12 bombings at three Western housing compounds in Riyadh. Thirty-five people were killed in the attacks, including at least nine suicide bombers.

It's impossible to say that all those in custody are involved in the bombings, but they all have the same orientation and hold the same beliefs as those involved in the bombings, he told the Arabic-language Okaz daily.

A week ago, FBI director Robert Mueller said the May 12 suicide bombings bore "all the hallmarks" of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida. Saudi officials have said they suspect a role by al-Qaida and that some of those detained were linked to the group, but Prince Nayef's comments were the most direct yet.

The Interior Ministry announced on Saturday the names of 12 people it said were involved in the attacks. It said the men were identified through "intensive investigation" and from DNA tests of samples taken from the bodies of the attackers.

It was not clear from the ministry statement how many of the 12 were attackers killed in the suicide bombings.

The list did not include Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi, who is believed to be the mastermind of the bombings and is sought by Saudi police.

Authorities also discovered a large quantity of RDX explosives, the ministry said. The 132 blocks of RDX -- weighing more than 280 pounds -- were found in a house in Al-Kharj, a city some 40 miles south of the capital, it said.

Nayef singled out two main suspects still at large: al-Ghamdi, and Turki Nasser al-Dandani. U.S. officials have said al-Ghamdi is among al-Qaida's top men in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi police are also hunting for at least 10 suspects out of initial group of 19 wanted in connection with a weapons cache found in Riyadh a week before the bombings, Nayef said.

Four of the 19 were identified as among the bombers killed in the attacks, and others from the list may also be among the dead, Nayef said. One of the 19 was killed in a police chase last week and was reportedly carrying a letter written by bin Laden. Another suspect turned himself in shortly before the Riyadh bombings.

Nayef said they could not prove a connection between the Riyadh bombings and a string of five suicide attacks in Morocco on May 16. Those bombings left 43 dead, including 12 suicide bombers, all Moroccans.

Dozens of Moroccans have since been detained and authorities have said an international terrorism ring was behind the attacks.


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