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US Diplomatic Missions in Saudi Arabia Close Due to Terror Threat
James Martone
VOA, Cairo
08 Nov 2003, 14:44 UTC

The United States has closed all its diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia after officials received what they said was a warning of a serious threat of terrorist attacks in the kingdom. The closure follows U.S. warnings last month of possible terror attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A public affairs officer at the United States consulate in Jeddah, Robert Keith, said the U.S. missions were closed as of Saturday after information was received that terrorist attacks might be imminent.

"In light of the seriousness of the current threat, the embassy in Riyadh and the U.S. consulates in general in Jeddah and Dharan will close on Saturday, are closed on Saturday, November 8, basically to review their current security position," he said. "The community will be advised when this review is completed, and when the U.S. mission plans to resume normal operations. At this point, we are closed today and we, as I say, are re-evaluating if we'll be closed another day or two."

A report in Washington said the security review could last a week or longer.

The closure of the U.S. embassy and diplomatic missions follows U.S. warnings to American citizens last month of possible terror attacks in Saudi Arabia during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The U.S. State Department later told Americans to defer non-essential travel to the kingdom, citing credible information that terrorists could target western aviation and transport sites in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Keith, referring to the U.S. advisory announcing the closure of the U.S. missions, said American citizens in Saudi Arabia were being asked to be especially careful now.

"The embassy here strongly urges all American citizens in the kingdom to be especially vigilant when they are in an area that is perceived to be American or Western," said Robert Keith. Mr. Keith said he did not know how the move would affect a planned trip to the kingdom by U.S. deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

More than 35,000 U.S. citizens live in Saudi Arabia, which has intensified a crackdown on Muslim militants since attacks on Western residential compounds in the capital, Riyadh, last May.

Police raids this week led the death of at least five militants who Saudi authorities said were linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida terror network he leads.

The United States began pressuring Saudi Arabia to rein in suspected Muslim extremists after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, which Washington has blamed on al-Qaida.

Fifteen of the hijackers involved in those attacks were identified as Saudi nationals.