WASHINGTON – Nonessential American diplomats and the families of all U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia should leave, the State Department said Wednesday, stepping up its warnings about risks in the country.
Private U.S. citizens should consider leaving as well, the department said. Americans making plans to go to Saudi Arabia were advised to defer any such travel in light of “the potential for further terrorist activities.”
The departure of U.S. officials and family members was voluntary, with the U.S. government covering the expenses.
Americans who travel to the kingdom or remain there despite the warning were told to register with the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the consulates in Jiddah and Dhahran.
“The U.S. government continues to receive indications of terrorist threats aimed at American and Western interests,” the department said. Americans in Saudi Arabia were advised to remain vigilant, “particularly in public places associated with the Western community.”
No single specific threat or piece of intelligence led to the department’s action, said a U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Instead, the decision was based on a review of the entire terrorism picture in the kingdom.
There are some 200 to 300 nonessential U.S. officials and family members in Saudi Arabia, and about 30,000 U.S. citizens in all.