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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 16:13 GMT
Saudis stunned by latest attack

By Paul Wood
BBC correspondent in Riyadh

The devastation from the bomb touched every corner of the foreign workers' compound in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The first thing that struck me was just how far the bombers had managed to get the device inside.

It is a good 40m (130ft) to 50m (165ft) from the compound's main gate; in previous attempts bombers exploded devices quite close to the gate.

The second thing was that this was a massive bomb, with mangled and charred cars thrown a considerable distance.

Deep shock

Saudi policeman walks past mangled car and bicycle debris from Riyadh bombing
With royal palaces close by workers mistakenly thought they would be safe
The crater - now being filled in - is some five metres across and three metres deep.

There is a big cleanup operation because around four or five buildings were completely demolished and they are now being bulldozed out of the way.

With royal palaces close by, foreign workers had thought they would be safe.

Now there is deep shock.

"I didn't know what was happening," said Janny Dearing, a British nurse who lives nearby.

"I peeked out of the window and realised it was gunfire. I was just crawling along the corridor to get to the kids' bedrooms and there was a big blast and all the windows blew in, the door blew in, there was screaming, smoke...

"At that point we just went to hide under the beds, we didn't know where to go or what to do, it was just terrifying."

Al-Qaeda 'miscalculation'?

Saudi authorities have promised they will catch who is responsible for this attack, but they also know they are in a battle for hearts and minds with the Islamic militants.

We must act immediately to convince our government to deal with this problem with logic rather than force
Cleric Dr Mohsen Alwajy
All this has also had an enormous psychological effect within Saudi Arabia.

Muslims were killed, Arabs were killed and all in the holy month of Ramadan.

There are many who believe al-Qaeda - if responsible for the attacks - may have fatally miscalculated, alienating those it was trying to win over.

Saudi officials in the kingdom have painted this latest attack in the kingdom as the desperate act of an organisation under severe pressure as the authorities round up hundreds of people.

US support

This was a blow aimed directly at the Saudi royal family, so the Americans have moved quickly with messages of support rather than criticism.

They know that, if al-Qaeda is to be defeated globally, it will have to be defeated here in Saudi Arabia first.

But in this deeply religious society, some clerics are trying to persuade the government to open talks with the militants.

"We must act immediately to convince our government to deal with this problem with logic rather than force," radical cleric Dr Mohsen Alwajy told me.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Paul Wood reports from Riyadh
"There is deep shock"


Saudi ambassador to the UK, Prince Turki al-Faisal
"Al-Qaeda, through these activities, have raised the ire and the anger of the Saudi people"



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