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Breaking News: Large explosions rock Saudi Arabia capital


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MSNBC News Services

Updated: 8:11 a.m. ET April 21, 2004RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A series of explosions rocked the Saudi Arabian capital on Wednesday, according to officials. At least two people were killed and dozens injured, a police official told the Associated Press although witnesses said the toll was higher.


Separately, the Al-Arabiya television network reported that the body of a suicide bomber was recovered from the scene.

"We believe it is a terrorist attack," a Saudi Interior Ministry source told Reuters.

Witnesses said the explosions, which occurred about 2 p.m. (1100 GMT), shattered windows and damaged walls in surrounding buildings.

Fire brigades worked to extinguish the fire that engulfed the General Security building. More than 20 ambulances were seen arriving at the scene and there were two helicopters roving over the site of the explosion. Police cordoned off the area.

"The front of a building is blown off and smoke is still rising," a Reuters correspondent said from the scene.

Saudi and Arab television channels showed clouds of black smoke rising from the building and settling over the neighborhood.

Booby-trapped SUVs

The explosions came only days after Saudi authorities announced they had seized three booby-trapped SUVs that were loaded with a total of more than four tons of explosives and had apparently been abandoned by militants involved in a shootout with security forces.

The United States last week ordered the departure of nonessential U.S. government employees and family members from Saudi Arabia. It also urged private citizens to leave the kingdom, and the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh issued an advisory warning of "credible indications of terrorist threats aimed at American and Western interests in Saudi Arabia."

Last year, the Saudi capital suffered two major attacks by suicide bombers driving vehicles filled with explosives. A total of 51 people were killed in the May and November bombings, including the assailants.

The Saudis pursued terrorists and Islamic extremists vigorously after those attacks, arresting hundreds of people.

The attacks were blamed on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida, the network accused of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes in the United States.

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