August 8, 2005

UK says Saudi attacks in ‘final stages’ of planning

RIYADH (Reuters) - Britain warned on Monday that militants
were in the final stages of planning attacks in Saudi Arabia as
Washington shut its missions there for two days and Australia
told its citizens to avoid travel to the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia, battling a two-year campaign of violence by
supporters of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, said it had no
solid information of any imminent attack in the oil giant.

"There are credible reports that terrorists are in the
final stages of planning attacks," said an updated advisory
posted on the Web site of the British embassy in the capital

Earlier, Britain cited "credible reports" that militants
were planning attacks in the near future. It said Britons in
the kingdom should maintain the highest level of vigilance.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs told Australians
to avoid travel to the kingdom, saying militants might be
planning attacks on housing compounds.

"We have received credible reports that terrorists are
planning attacks in Saudi Arabia in the near future," the
department said on its Web site.

"This follows other recent reporting suggesting that
terrorists may be planning to attack residential housing
compounds in Saudi Arabia."

The security warnings, combined with worries the United
States may face a gasoline shortage, helped propel oil prices
to another record high.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, already has
high security around oil installations. Militants have waged a
bombing campaign in the kingdom since 2003 to expel Westerners
from Islam's birthplace and destabilize the pro-U.S.

The warnings came a day after the American embassy in
Riyadh said all U.S. diplomatic missions would be closed on
Aug. 8 and 9 in response to threats of attacks on U.S.

It warned of "ongoing security concerns" in the area,
including for seaborne vessels traveling in the Red Sea.

King Abdullah, who came to power this month after King Fahd
died, is expected to continue the crackdown on militants, which
analysts say has eroded al Qaeda's network in Saudi Arabia.

Suicide bombers have hit several compounds housing
foreigners, and militants also staged a daylight raid on the
U.S. consulate in Jeddah. At least 91 foreign nationals and
Saudi civilians have been killed in the violence.

Last month, the United States warned Americans in Saudi
Arabia that militants were planning fresh attacks and later
banned military personnel from traveling around the kingdom.

That warning came as Saudi security forces said they found
an arms cache outside Riyadh with two tonnes of chemicals used
by suspected al Qaeda militants to make bombs.

Authorities have killed or arrested all but three men on a
list of 26 most wanted suspects published in 2003. In June,
officials listed another 36 wanted men they are still hunting.