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SAUDI ARABIA - Dec 6 - Terrorist Attack On US Consulate Leaves Eight Dead.

Al Qaeda gunmen storm the heavily guarded US consulate in the Saudi port of Jeddah killing at least eight people, casting doubt on Saudi efforts to clamp down on terrorism. Security forces regained control of the compound within hours of the assault during which five non-American consular guards and three of the attackers died. Late Dec 6 night, Reuters news agency reported a statement on an Islamist website claiming the Saudi wing of Al Qaeda had carried out the attack. Saudi interior ministry officials denied earlier reports that four Saudi troops had also been killed. It was the first attack against a foreign diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia, which security officials and analysts took as a sign that intense efforts by the Saudi security forces have not erased the threat from militants. The Jeddah attack will heighten concerns over instability in the world's largest oil producer when Middle East tensions are finding their way into oil markets. Saudi security officials said at least five gunmen burst through a side entrance to the consulate compound by detonating hand grenades to overcome guards. Smoke from the explosions rose above the compound as the attackers advanced to the main consulate building under fire from Saudi National Guard troops stationed inside the compound. The troops, reinforced by Saudi Special Security Forces, exchanged fire with the attackers for up to an hour, officials said. Consular staff inside the building took cover in a reinforced safe house within the complex. The attackers took down and burned the US flag flying in the compound, before three of them were killed and two wounded and captured by Saudi forces. More than 170 people have been killed in Saudi Arabia since suspected supporters of Osama bin Laden last year launched a campaign against the US and the Al Saud royal family, whom they accuse of backing Washington. In recent months, however, government forces have been on the offensive and attacks have diminished. Diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia have been under constant threat but security around the compounds has been regularly reinforced. Dec 6 attack follows the recent airing of a video tape from Ayman Al Zawahiri, the second in command in the Al Qaeda leadership, who told followers to focus their fight against the US. Bush said the Jeddah attack showed that "the terrorists are still on the move". He said: They want us to leave Saudi Arabia, they want us to leave Iraq, they want us to grow timid and weary in the face of their willingness to kill randomly, kill innocent people".
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 11, 2004
Words:425
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