Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for last weekend’s deadly bombing of a neighborhood in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to a statement posted on a Web site affiliated with the terrorist network.
Saudi officials had initially blamed al Qaeda for Saturday’s blast, which killed 17 people and wounded 122. The victims were mostly Arabs. Five of them were children.
In the lengthy statement, al Qaeda disputed that, claiming the compound was rented by employees of the FBI and that several of the victims were American, French and German. It also denied that a large number of children died, unless there was a nursery on site.
The statement claimed more than 55 people were killed in the blast, including 30 Saudi security forces.
A man in Saudi custody told investigators that al Qaeda made a mistake # that it believed it was targeting a neighborhood housing Americans and didn’t realize most of the victims would be Arabs, Saudi government sources told CNN.
Two Saudi officials rejected that suggestion.
“If their intent is to kill Americans, it doesn’t answer the question as why are they involved in activities in Mecca,” said Saudi government spokesman Nail Al-Jubeir.
“Why do they have bomb factories in the holy city of Mecca that only Muslims go to? Why do they have traps in Mecca?”
Nail Al-Jubeir said the attack was not meant as a “symbolic attack” against the royal family: “Their target is humanity.”
He also said Saudi authorities have rounded up hundreds of terrorists since triple car bombings killed 23 people plus 12 bombers at three complexes housing Westerners in Riyadh in May. And he said Saudi Arabia has fired 2,000 imams for spreading hate.
“What we are looking at is a group of people that are committed to overthrow the Saudi state, to create an Afghan-type Taliban rule in Saudi Arabia,” Nail Al-Jubeir said. “We’re not going to have them succeed.”
Adel Al-Jubeir, adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, said he is convinced al Qaeda was purposely attacking fellow Muslims.
He insisted his country has been working to crack down on the terrorist network for years # even before the attacks in May.
“Al Qaeda is a demonic cult,” he said. “It is pure evil.”
The group looks for justification in causes, Adel Al-Jubeir said, citing al Qaeda’s complaints about the Soviet presence in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, and its recent talk about Palestinians and Iraqis.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they take up the cause of saving the whales,” he said.
“They will not succeed,” Adel Al-Jubeir said. “They don’t have the legitimacy. They don’t have the popular support. They don’t have the resources. We intend to confront them, we intend to crush them, and we intend to rid our country of this evil.”
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, he said, “wants us to turn off the electricity. He wants us to cut relations with every country in the world. He wants us to go back to live in cages. It’s not going to happen.”
The U.S. State Department also said it believes bin Laden’s al Qaeda network was behind Saturday’s attack in Riyadh.
Al Qaeda has long opposed the Saudi royal family and has repeatedly called on Muslims to reject Saudi leadership.
Al Qaeda statement describes attack-
The al Qaeda statement described, step-by-step, how the insurgents carried out the Riyadh attack, using two vehicles stolen from Saudi security forces.
It also described previous attacks, claiming the terrorist network has gained support from the Saudi military and that is how it was able to acquire the military vehicles used in those attacks.
The statement also criticized Saudi’s interior minister, saying he is using excessive force and manipulating the media to ruin al Qaeda’s reputation by accusing it of killing “brothers and sisters of Islam,” as well as children.
Saudi government officials were questioning several people Tuesday who may be implicated in Saturday’s car bombing, a Saudi government spokesman said.
The spokesman did not say when the arrests were made or how many were taken into custody.
On Monday, King Fahd pledged he would strike militants with an “iron fist” in the wake of the bombing.
Fahd also told his Cabinet he wants to make sure it is safe for people to travel to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, during the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan, sources said. (Full story)
Sources said they expect at least one more attack. In response, Saudi security officials tightened security at diplomatic compounds and other sensitive sites and sent 4,600 troops to Mecca, sources said