JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia Saudi officials tightened security in this harbor city Saturday, fearing it could be the next target of terrorists after this week's attacks on Riyadh and Casablanca, Morocco.
U.S. counterterrorism officials in Washington warned Thursday of possible strikes in Jiddah and a coordinated effort by al-Qaida to strike lightly defended targets worldwide. They cited Monday's bombings in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, as well as threats in Africa and Asia.
Hours after the warnings, terrorists struck in Morocco, exploding bombs in the coastal city of Casablanca late Friday. The blasts killed at least 40 people, including about 10 attackers, and wounded about 60 others, officials said.
Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, called Morocco's King Mohammed VI on Saturday to condemn the terrorist attacks there and relay his condolences, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Jiddah police set up checkpoints and inspected passenger cars in the Red Sea port, 190 miles southwest of Riyadh. An armored personnel carrier and jeeps with heavy machine guns guarded the U.S. Consulate in Jiddah, and many foreigners stayed away from crowded areas.
Tamas Braun, a Hungarian who works for a Saudi bank, flew from Riyadh to Jiddah after Monday's bombings there. Those attacks killed 34 people, including eight Americans.
"I'm pretty freaked out and I'm seriously considering whether I should stay here (in Saudi Arabia) anymore," Braun said.
"We don't go anymore because there is concern and we are being cautious," said Nino Roselund, a 31-year-old assistant food and beverage manager from Denmark. "I'm not scared but I'm not stupid, either. I don't want to take a chance."
Security was tight in and around the Jiddah airport.
Alhamra, the Jiddah district specifically mentioned in a U.S. terror warning, was dotted with checkpoints manned by police, some with semiautomatic rifles slung over their shoulders.
This week's attacks have prompted cities across the globe to brace for the possibility of strikes by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
In Kenya, the State Department authorized the voluntary departure of family members and nonessential personnel at the U.S. Embassy and recommended other American citizens also consider leaving.
In the past two weeks, the Lebanese army has arrested suspected members of a terrorist network that allegedly planned to assassinate the American ambassador and attack the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and other Western targets. The most recent arrests were announced Thursday.
Saudi and U.S. officials have insisted that cooperation will be close. More than 60 investigators from the FBI and other U.S. agencies were in Riyadh to support the Saudi probe, said John Burgess, Consul for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh.
However, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said American officials had only visited the residential sites of American companies in Riyadh but were not participating in the investigation.
Saudi Arabia had faced accusations of doing too little to combat militancy ahead of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.
Monday's attacks in Riyadh hit three compounds that were home to some of Saudi Arabia's expatriates. The country has 6 million expatriate workers, including about 35,000 Americans and 30,000 Britons, many of whom work in the oil, defense and medical industries.
In addition, two of the compounds housed employees of the Saudi National Guard, headed by Crown Prince Abdullah, and air force workers in the Defense Ministry, which is led by Prince Sultan. Both are brothers of King Fahd.
The third complex is owned by the deputy governor of Riyadh, second only to the governor, Prince Salman, also a brother of the king.
Saudi Islamic clerics, who are carefully guided by their government, widely condemned the attacks at Friday prayers.
"This act is aggression, murder, terrorism and destruction. It is the killing of life and the spilling of innocent blood. It is a cheap path, a crime motivated by misdirected thoughts and crooked principles," Sheik Saleh bin Abdullah bin Humaid, head of the consultative council, said in a sermon delivered at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia's holiest city.
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