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Report: Bombing leader captured

By Associated Press,
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 29, 2003

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi officials arrested an al-Qaida figure suspected of masterminding the Riyadh bombings, a newspaper reported Wednesday, and the U.S. ambassador warned that militant cells are likely still plotting attacks in the kingdom.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef announced new arrests, saying the hunt had intensified for those involved in the May 12 suicide bombings in the Saudi capital, which killed 34 people, including eight Americans.

Saudi newspapers said that among those arrested were five people in the eastern city of Medina, including Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi, who U.S. officials say is one of al-Qaida's top figures in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Ghamdi, captured along with two others at an Internet cafe, is suspected of plotting the Riyadh blasts, the daily Al-Watan reported. Al-Watan, like most Saudi papers, is privately owned but government guided.

The Associated Press, quoting an unnamed security analyst with close ties to the government, reported that 11 suspected militants were arrested in Medina and four others in Riyadh in the last couple of days.

Among those captured in Medina were two wanted Muslim clerics - Ali al-Khudair and Ahmad al-Khalidi - arrested at a hideout where weapons were found, the analyst said on condition of anonymity. The clerics had called for the support of the 19 wanted militants and had long been known for their sympathy for al-Qaida and the Taliban. A third wanted cleric, Nasser al-Fahd, remains at large.

Nayef declined to give details in his announcement, saying only that "a number of people were arrested some days ago and (Tuesday) in Medina," the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

Saudi officials have detained about 100 people since the Riyadh car bombings, which targeted three residential compounds housing many Westerners. Still, U.S. officials worry about more attacks.

"There is no indication that this was a one-time ... attack," U.S. Ambassador Robert Jordan said, adding that al-Qaida remained "a very real and persistent threat here in the kingdom."

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