A group that says it is sympathetic to the aims of al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a car bombing that ripped through the Saudi capital Riyadh, killing four people and wounding 148 others.
The group, called The Brigade of the Two Holy Shrines, has claimed responsibility for two other attacks in Saudi Arabia, both of them assassinations of security forces.
The claim for Wednesday’s bombing was posted on a Geocities Web site and on a number of Islamist Web sites, according to Paul Eedle, a specialist on al Qaeda’s use of the Internet.
A senior Saudi official said the government believes al Qaeda terrorists were behind the bombing, which heavily damaged the old Saudi General Security building housing offices of the Interior Ministry.
The official noted that authorities had recently defused five other bombs, and that simultaneous bombings are an al Qaeda trademark.
“Who else sends suicide bombers to blow up cars in the midst of urban centers? Who else has publicly said we are going after the Saudi state,” this official said.
“Who else has publicly said they are planning to do more of these things? You put it all together and that’s the end of it.”
Wednesday’s bombing marked the third terror attack in the kingdom in less than a year.
After the attack, the Saudi ambassador to the United States said his nation was now in “total war” against terrorists.
“This shows that this group is evil, and they consider everybody their enemy,” Prince Bandar bin Sultan said after meeting with U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice at the White House.
“We are going to fight them hard. … It’s a total war with them now. And there will be no compromises, and we’re not going to give up on them.”
The bomber attempted to drive his explosive-packed car into the Traffic Department at the old Saudi General Security building around 2 p.m., when most workers were ending their days, the Saudi Interior Ministry said.
Officers stopped the attacker about 30 meters from the building, where the explosion was set off, the ministry said.
Television pictures showed the front of the five-story building had been shattered.
Television pictures from the scene showed the entire front of the five-story building had been shattered. Burned-out and damaged cars littered the area.
The area is near the Saudi Information Ministry and the headquarters for the security forces that guard the Saudi royal family.
The bombing killed a civil servant, two security officers and an 11-year-old Syrian girl, as well as the bomber, the Interior Ministry said.
Saudi authorities have been battling domestic Islamic militants since May 2003, when triple suicide bombings at residential compounds housing Westerners in Riyadh killed 23 people.
Then, in November, a car bombing struck a mostly Arab neighborhood near Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter, killing at least 17 people.
Seven Saudi police officers and three militants — including a man U.S. officials called a senior al Qaeda leader — have died in gun battles since March.
On Tuesday, security forces reported that they had defused five truck bombs that had been found in and around Riyadh in the past week. Police had set up several checkpoints in Riyadh during the search.