Investigators probe blast at Saudi security building

A group claimed responsibility for the fatal explosion.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Investigators sifted through charred cars and rubble today from the gutted seven-story security building targeted in the latest suspected Al-Qaida suicide bombing to strike Saudi Arabia's capital, while the country's top cleric condemned the terrorists responsible.
The Saudi Interior Ministry said four people died in the attack, not including a suicide bomber who police said died at the scene, and 148 people were injured. Officials from at least three hospitals, however, said that at least nine people were killed.
The difference in numbers killed could not be immediately reconciled.
Saudi officials said the bombing bore the hallmarks of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida network, which has also been blamed for suicide attacks in May and November 2003 in Riyadh that killed 51 people, including the assailants.
A shadowy Islamic extremist group, the purportedly Al-Qaida-inspired al-Haramin Brigades, released a statement on at least two Islamic Web sites claiming responsibility for the attack. The authenticity of the statement could not immediately be verified.
Wounded man's account
"It was like a lightning strike," said blast survivor Mohamed Rashid, a 28-year-old Pakistani tailor whose head was covered in cuts and swathed in bandages. Dried blood covered his face and shirt.
"I ducked for cover behind my sewing-machine table," he told The Associated Press. "Had I not done that, I wouldn't be here today."
While visiting the hospitalized wounded, Interior Minister Prince Nayef said the "terrorists are not targeting foreigners; they are targeting the nation," adding that Saudis should not cooperate or sympathize with militants "because those who do will be considered criminals."
The Interior Ministry said the assailant tried to drive his vehicle into the General Security building, which a police official at the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity, said houses a traffic headquarters plus an army unit involved in raids on terrorist camps.
When stopped by guards, the driver exploded the car about 100 feet from the gate, the government said.
Five other vehicles were apprehended with explosives, the Saudi official said.
Last month, an Internet message purportedly from Al-Qaida threatened Saudi security officers, saying that to attack them "in their homes, or workplace, is a very easy matter."
The official Saudi Press Agency issued a statement identifying three of those killed as Col. Abdel Rahman Abdullal al-Saleh, civil employee Ibrahim Nasser al-Mafreej and 11-year-old Syrian girl Wagdan Naser.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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