Saudi Arabia Blast Spotlights US Role in Defending Gulf

Article excerpt

FIRST the US Marine barracks in Beirut. Then the World Trade Center. Now yet another Islamic terrorist bombing has struck at Americans.

Yesterday, five Americans and two others were killed and dozens wounded when two bombs exploded outside a US military training facility in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.

The huge blast, which sent tremors across the whole city, came from a car parked at a US-run center for training Saudi national guardsmen, residents said.

The bombing raised questions about stability in the Arab Kingdom, which is the world's leading oil producer and America's main ally in the Gulf.

A Saudi opposition group, The Movement for Islamic Change, is believed to be behind the attack on the training site where hundreds of US military personnel are based. US warplanes are also in the country to patrol an air exclusion zone over Iraq.

The group, in communiques issued in April and June, said it would use all means available to remove US and British troops from the Islamic world's most conservative country if they did not leave by the end of June.

The group says it wants the overthrow of the regime, the "invaders" to leave the country, and the nation to regain its pride and dignity.

Many Islamic extremists have grown increasingly resentful toward Western influences in Saudi Arabia, particularly after the kingdom served as a launching pad for the US-led coalition that crushed Saddam Hussein's Iraqi troops in the 1991 Gulf war.

Saad Fageeh, director of the London office of the larger and most well-organized Saudi Islamic opposition group, Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights, said "We found that the group, The Movement for Islamic Change, is a legitimate group and might be behind the blast."

The group claiming responsibility for the attacks also vented rage at the Saudi government in its earlier communiques, accusing it of acting as "infidel agents" who have "opened the land of the two holy shrines and the peninsula of the Arabs to invading colonialist, crusader forces. …