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Southern Illinois man shot dead in Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- An American who worked for a U.S. defense contractor was shot and killed Tuesday in the Saudi capital, the second deadly shooting of a Westerner in the kingdom in three days.

An unknown assailant killed the man in his home, said a spokesman for Vinnell Corp., based in Fairfax, Va. "He was found by another employee at his apartment and taken to a hospital, but did not survive," said the spokesman, Jay McCaffrey.

The victim was identified as Robert C. Jacobs, 62, of Murphysboro, Ill., a seven-year employee of Vinnell, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp., said Northrop spokeswoman Janis Lamar.

Seven Vinnell employees were among the 35 people, including nine suicide bombers, who died last year in an attack on a Riyadh foreigners' housing compound.

Vinnell, which has several dozen Americans in the kingdom training Saudi security forces, maintains a secure residential compound for its employees, but the victim chose not to live there, McCaffrey said.

The official Saudi news agency said police were investigating the death. Saudi security officials declined immediate comment.

"I am shocked," said Bandar Al-Ajmi, 29, a Saudi who lived around the corner from the victim. "He was our neighbor, and neither God nor the Prophet [Muhammad] would accept that something like this would happen."

An orange police bus blocked the street leading to the apartment in a villa in the Khaleej neighborhood of eastern Riyadh.

Besides training security forces, Vinnell Corp also provides other services ranging from construction to supply and transportation work. Last year, it was awarded a $48 million contract to train the new Iraqi army.

Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan called the murder "a vicious crime perpetrated by cowards who serve no cause but hatred," and promised that those responsible will be brought to justice.

"The terrorists that are responsible for such inhuman acts are trying to undermine the Saudi state, destabilize our economy and terrorize our friends who have come to live, work and invest in the Kingdom," Prince Bandar said in a statement.

"We are at war with these terrorists. There is no chance that they will succeed because the collective will of the Saudi people rejects their goals," the prince said.

Islamic militants have carried out a series of attacks on Westerners, government targets and economic interests in the kingdom during the past 13 months. The government has blamed the attacks on people inspired by, or belonging to, the al-Qaida terror network led by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

Insurgents shot a British Broadcasting Corp. team Sunday while it was filming a militant's family home in Riyadh. The cameraman, Simon Cumbers, 36, an Irish citizen, was killed and security correspondent Frank Gardner, 42, a Briton, was critically wounded.

The attack occurred in a low-income neighborhood that has been the scene of numerous confrontations between government forces and militants.

The scene of Tuesday's shooting was an upscale district of schools, clinics and housing compounds where Westerners live.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday the attack on the BBC journalists demonstrated the threat terrorists pose around the world.

"We have to be vigilant and get out and get after them and make sure we deal with this issue," Blair said.

The British Foreign Office has advised Britons against all nonessential travel to Saudi Arabia. The United States has gone further, urging all its citizens to leave the kingdom.

Militant attacks have surged in the past two months, despite a high-profile campaign against terrorists the government began after last year's suicide bombings.

On May 29, militants stormed a resort in the eastern oil city of Khobar and took hostages. They killed 22 people, mostly foreigners. One attacker was captured. Saudi security forces are still looking for three others.

On May 22, a German chef was shot and killed outside a bank in Riyadh. The assailants remain at large.

On May 1, terrorists attacked the offices of an American energy company in the western city of Yanbu, killing six Westerners and a Saudi.


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