- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — The terrorists stormed into the U.S. Consulate compound’s inner courtyard, firing their guns from behind trees, bursting into offices and shouting: “Where are the Americans? Where are the Americans?”

Later, from their hospital beds, wounded U.S. Consulate workers provided new details about an attack Monday that killed nine and injured at least 10.

The terrorists “clearly understood how cars entered the compound, and they were conducting surveillance,” U.S. Ambassador James C. Oberwetter said yesterday.

He contended that security measures had largely worked because the attackers’ car could not get past the consulate gate, forcing them to enter the grounds on foot. The attackers also never made it to the main consulate buildings, where most Americans worked.

Still, as Mr. Oberwetter offered condolences to the families of five slain consulate workers, he said, “The events of yesterday show the need for improvement. We will examine what additional steps need to be taken.”

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli warned that there could be more attacks in Saudi Arabia.

“Our operating assumption is that there are still terrorist elements active in the kingdom, targeting U.S. citizens and facilities, as well as other commercial and civilian establishments,” Mr. Ereli said.

To bolster diplomatic security, Defense Department officials said a Marine Corps counterterror team would go to Jidda. Such teams typically are made up of 50 Marines trained in providing security and conducting raids in urban areas.

Saudi officials said four of the assailants were Saudis and one remained unidentified.

None of the three identified by name — Fayez bin Awad al-Juhaini, Eid bin Dakhil Allah al-Juhaini and Hassan bin Hamid al-Hazimi — appears on the kingdom’s list of 26 most-wanted militants. Saudi officials did not say whether the al-Juhainis were related, or provide details about them. Four of the five attackers died.

The five slain consulate employees were from Yemen, Sudan, the Philippines, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The director of King Fahd Hospital said a total of 10 wounded were brought there, and eight remained yesterday. Two American staff members were slightly wounded, but their circumstances were not clear.

One of the wounded consulate employees, Salah Abdel Qawi Alyafiee, of Yemen, said the militants first stormed into the consulate courtyard, then held people as human shields as Saudi forces rushed in and engaged the attackers in a fierce gunbattle.

“Each one of the terrorists took a group of us, and they started shooting at the [Saudi] guards,” he said.

Other wounded employees said the attackers burst into a guardhouse looking for Americans after first entering the courtyard.

“They shot our door and they went into our office,” said Abbel Gaber, a Sri Lankan who had been hired by a local guard company. “They asked us, ‘Where are the Americans?’ We said, ‘We don’t have any Americans.’”

He said the attackers then told him and others to put up their hands and say “Allahu akbar” — “God is great.”

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