U.S. Sought Security Improvements Prior to Attacks
Ambassador Robert Jordan said on CBS Wednesday morning, ”As soon as we learned of this particular threat information, we contacted the Saudi government.”
“We continue to work with the Saudis on this, but they did not, as of the time of this tragic event, provide the additional security we requested.”
The death toll in the bombing has risen to 34, including seven Americans, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said he “had not heard” of the request from U.S. officials to increase security, but admitted to some lapses.
“The fact that the terrorism happened is an indication of shortcomings, and we have to learn from our mistakes and seek to improve our performance in this respect,” he said at the press conference.
The foreign minister added whenever an embassy asks for tighter security the Saudi government fulfills the request.
The prince later told NBC that Saudi Arabia and the United States were working together to improve security when the attacks occurred.
“There was news everywhere, coming from everywhere, that they were planning a major attack and we had established a committee with the United States to see what we could do, both of us, to prevent this attack from happening. We came close, we came indeed very close but unfortunately they were able to do their damage,” Saud said.
When Saud was asked if al-Qaida was responsible for the attacks he said, “it has the makings of that, certainly.” U.S. officials have also said they believe the attack was probably an Al Qaida operation.
Saudi and U.S. officials have pledged to find and punish those responsible for the attacks.
President Bush reportedly talked to Crown Prince Abdullah, the kingdom’s second highest-ranking government official and de facto leader, by phone on Tuesday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Fleischer said the U.S. – Saudi relationship would not change because of the bombings.
“The one thing the terrorists want more than anything else is to be able to attack the United States, to attack others in the region and force us into changes in our policies,” Fleischer said in a press briefing Wednesday. “That will not happen.”
On May 6, Saudi agents raided a house, reportedly just blocks away from one of the targeted housing complexes, in order to arrest members of an alleged terrorist cell.
“No one was arrested in the raid, and U.S. intelligence sources told NBC News that they believed the cell carried out Monday?s attacks, echoing statements by senior Saudi officials,” MSNBC.com reported Wednesday.
The suspected terrorists, members of an active al-Qaida cell, traded fire with Saudi police before escaping, according to the Washington Post.
During the raid police found “a weapons cache that included 55 hand grenades, 829 pounds of explosives and 2,545 bullets of different calibers,” The Post reported.
The Post, citing U.S. officials, said the cell included 50 to 60 members and had been planning and attempting attacks since last year, but had found security to be too heavy to penetrate at some targets.
News reports said as many as 2,000 Saudi officials are combing the bombing scenes looking for evidence.
The State Department has reportedly ordered all “non-essential” U.S. personnel to leave Saudi Arabia and is advising all U.S. citizens in the kingdom to beware.
“U.S. citizens are reminded of increased security concerns and the potential of further terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia,” it said
An FBI assessment team, including bomb experts and investigative agents, was reportedly en route to Saudi Arabia and expected to arrive sometime Thursday.