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FBI Warns of New Threats; U.S., British Embassies in Saudi Arabia to Close

BY Admin  May 20, 2003 at 12:33 PM EDT

The move comes as diplomats said new attacks in Saudi Arabia appeared “imminent” and moved to close U.S. and British embassies and consulates in the kingdom through the weekend.

Last week’s nearly simultaneous bombings of residential compounds housing Western workers in Riyadh showed that al-Qaida “remains active and highly capable,” said the FBI bulletin that was sent to local and state law enforcement agencies.

According to media reports, the bulletin was issued Friday and officials have said since that there is no credible information about a specific threat.

The U.S. intelligence community “assesses that attacks against U.S. and Western targets overseas are likely; attacks in the United States cannot be ruled out,” the FBI communication said, according to an Associated Press account of the bulletin provided by anonymous federal law enforcement officials.

“Further, these attacks suggest that al-Qaida may be deterred by enhancing security and changes in the security countermeasures adopted by potential targets,” the bulletin reportedly said.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, asked about the warning Tuesday, said “chatter” picked up by U.S. agencies suggested new attacks were possible.

“We’ve seen this before and we want to do everything we can to be vigilant,” Fleischer said on NBC’s Today show.

As of Tuesday midday, the U.S. terror alert level remained at “yellow” or elevated, the middle of the five level countrywide threat advisory system.

The FBI bulletin came out as more than 60 FBI agents continued their work with Saudi law enforcement to investigate the Riyadh bombings. Four men believed to be part of an al-Qaida cell in Saudi Arabia have been arrested in connection with the attacks, Saudi officials announced Monday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., told reporters in Riyadh that “there is chatter, a high level of chatter regionally and in other international spots” about possible attacks in Saudi Arabia or the U.S.

“My gut feeling tells me something big is going to happen here [in Saudi Arabia] or in America,” Bandar said.

With security threats on the rise, both the U.S. and British embassies in Riyadh announced Tuesday they would be closed Wednesday. The American embassy’s web site said officials had received credible information that further attacks are being planned against unspecified targets in Saudi Arabia.

U.S. consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran will also be closed on Wednesday due to the threat of a new attack. The American and British facilities will stay shuttered through at least the weekend.