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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Fear among Saudi Arabia foreigners
Scene of bomb in the Saudi city of Khobar
The blast has increased expats' worries
By the BBC's Julia Wheeler in Dubai

The bomb blast in the Saudi Arabian city of Khobar has raised fears among some Western expatriates that they could become the targets of those who share the beliefs of the Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.

Two people have died, one is confirmed to have been a US citizen.

One of the four people injured is a Briton, who the British Embassy says has "superficial" injuries.

Saudi map
It is not clear who is behind the blasts or their motives.

But with the recent events in the United States and military action against Afghanistan, concerns are running high among the American and British communities.

It is no surprise that many are suspicious there is a link - some have no doubts.

However, they see it more as a copycat action rather than any highly thought-out attack. One expatriate described it as "a terrible prank".

US and British troops seen as 'infidels'

Although the vast majority of Arabs in the Gulf strongly condemn the tactics of the September 11th attacks, many do believe in the reasons behind it.

Near the top of that list of reasons is the presence of thousands of US and British troops stationed on Saudi Arabian soil.

They have been advised to be vigilant, not to give their opinions in public and to avoid crowded markets or souks, especially after dusk.

Many Muslims see this as an invasion of infidels in the birthplace of Islam.

Five years ago a bomb attack at the US base in Khobar saw American troops move to out of view, into desert camps.

In the last year, though, there have been several bombings in Saudi Arabia, which police have linked to a turf war over illicit alcohol trading.

The bombings all targeted Westerners and they are blamed by the authorities on other Westerners.

Westerners urged to be vigilant

Whoever was behind Saturday's explosion- and no-one has admitted responsibility - western expatriates in the conservative kingdom are keeping their heads down and hoping not to draw attention to themselves.

This goes as much for Britons and others, as for Americans.

They have been advised to be vigilant, not to give their opinions in public and to avoid crowded markets or souks, especially after dusk.

Saturday's attack took place between 1930 and 2000, when it would have been dark in Khobar.

Most Westerners in Saudi Arabia live on large compounds.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Saudi counter part Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been seeking Saudi support

In recent weeks, some Americans have had their compound gates locked on Fridays because of fears of unrest after the week's main prayers.

Some families of those working in the Kingdom have put off their return from the summer break.

Many want to see how things play out within the next weeks and months.

Others are talking of leaving Saudi altogether, but there is a feeling among some of those staying, that these are the ones who are unhappy in the country anyway - and that the heightened tension is their excuse to make the break.

One British expatriate told me he feels he is in one of the safest places he could be at the moment.

Having worked in the City of London in 1993 when an IRA bomb devastated the Bishopsgate area in London's financial centre, he feels he is well equipped to weather the current uncertainty.

"These people are not as clever as the IRA", he says.

The BBC's Bob Berry
"It appears a passing pedestrian had thrown a parcel bomb"
The BBC's Frank Gardner
"It does bear all the hallmarks of an anti-Western attack"
See also:

07 Oct 01 | Middle East
American killed in Saudi explosion
13 Aug 01 | Middle East
Britons confess to Saudi bombings
08 Feb 01 | Middle East
Getting a drink in Saudi Arabia
12 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
07 Oct 01 | Middle East
'No terror link' to Saudi blast
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