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Thu 29 Sep 2011 02:21 PM

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US warns expats of kidnap threat in Saudi

Embassy warns that terror group may be planning to kidnap westerners in Riyadh

US warns expats of kidnap threat in Saudi
Statue of liberty, US flag

The US embassy in Riyadh has issued a warning to its citizens in the kingdom that it an unidentified terrorist group may be planning to kidnap western nationals in the capital city.

American citizens should “exercise prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times,” the embassy said on Thursday.

“US Embassy in Riyadh advises US citizens in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that we have received information that a terrorist group in Saudi Arabia may be planning to abduct westerners in Riyadh,” the embassy said in a message posted on its website.

The kingdom launched a crackdown on Islamic militants following a wave of attacks in the country between 2003 and 2006. Suicide bombers killed 35 people at a housing compound for westerns in Riyadh in May 2003.

The last reported attack directed at foreign nationals in the kingdom was in 2007, the embassy said in August.

“The fact that the warning came out now just shows that there is still al-Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia that we haven’t seen in the recent past,” Theodore Karasik, a Middle East security expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said.

“It’s been very safe and secure so this development is very interesting and I think it deserves more attention to the why now part than anything else. In Saudi, we haven’t had a kidnapping or a beheading for a very long time.”

The former leader of Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency Prince Turki al-Faisal on Monday said the political turmoil across the Middle East had created a fertile ground for terrorist groups in the region but said the kingdom remained “stable and secure.”

Thursday’s warning follows a security update issued to US citizens in August which warned of an “ongoing security threat due to the continued presence of terrorist groups, some affiliated with al-Qaida”.

The issue said the groups may target western interests, housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas, and other facilities where westerners congregate. 

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opsecusa 8 years ago

SAFETY RULES PART THREE: 7) Try to change your routine every now and then, use different ways to get to your work or to your house, mix it up a little. 8) Know your environment well, try to remember make or colors of the cars in your neighborhood, look for faces that you haven’t seen before, stair them down, make sure they know that you saw them. 9) When addressing an issue with a stranger, speak loud and clear, use action verbs and demand results, remember intimidation projected is 50% of your personal security. 10) Always carry a small flash light, only open your car remotely when you are few feet away, check your back seat before you enter, use the light to check around your car before you move. Before you leave your house, your friend(s) know where you are going and when you are anticipated to get there, call confirming arrival. Stay in touch with your Embassy for updates on threat status. Be smart, be safe.

opsecusa 8 years ago

SAFETY RULES PART TWO: 4) Avoid altercations with the locals, if someone approaches you saying that he is an undercover police officer and need to ask you few questions verify that by calling in the police and request a squad car to be present and officer to verify the I.D. of this undercover officer (this is your right). Always verify who is knocking on your door. Do not open your door unless you know who that guy is. If you do not know him, ask him to come back when you have one or more person with you in your house/apartment, even then, and if you must open the door to a complete stranger, keep your body inside the door, keep your friend behind the door ready to slam the door shut at a moment notice should it be needed. 5) Always have your cell phone with you with a charger in your car. 6) Do not go out for night walks or biking after dark, if you need to exercise, to the gym, be among people.

opsecusa 8 years ago

Safety rules PART ONE: when threat level is higher higher than normal concerned individuals are advised to follow simple rules of safety that can reduce possible risks in their environment. These safety procedures can consist of the following: 1) when you go out shopping or driving for any reason, do not do it alone, make sure you have at least someone else with you (buddy system). 2) make sure you shop in well known areas and have many other people present when you shop. 3) make sure you car is in good working condition and you have a GPS system on board that can assist you if you get lost, do not leave your car to ask for directions. In case of an accident, keep your car running, stay behind the wheel, do not open the doors or fully role down the window until the police shows up. If you feel threatened, leave the scene and call the cops to let them know that you are leaving the scene. Go to the nearest police station.

abdul hafeez sheikh 8 years ago

If the USA Citizens follow the instructions issued by the government of the host country for their safety and well beign , no event can happen . USA should also issue instructions and ask their citizen to abide by the law and safety instructions issued by the host country. Normally such sad events happen when the individuals (USA Citizen ) do not follow the instructions issued by the government of the host country . Non of the country in the world ever wants that any foreigner visitor may face any problems as it is embarrassment for the Host country.

American in Q8 8 years ago

Pure rubbish !

American in Q8 8 years ago

Good but could be improved.

Whomever is knocking doesn't know English !

NEVER, REPEAT NEVER OPEN THE DOOR. If threatened shoot through the door with a warning shot first.

We never go out at night unless really necessary.

Worldnomad 8 years ago

These are excellent safety tips, but I question if you have lived in a country where English is not the main language spoken, and where non-verbal cues are different than in the US. In addition, have you lived in a country that is a police state, and where your sponsor (employer) provides your housing and the assigned security leave their posts to pray or drink tea with their friends with great frequency, leaving the entrance open to anyone who may want to enter. Have you lived in a country where there is a "uniform" of sorts, thobe, ghutra and abaaya, which the majority of the population wears making it difficult to identify if anyone is following you? Living in Saudi Arabia is a unique experience for me (I have lived in five countries), and many of the norms do not apply.

Osama Ahmad 8 years ago

Its just amazing how this government controls people through fear! And I have always wondered how "Al-Qaeda" could possibly spread over so easily! Al-Qaeda in Arabic means "The Base", or it could also mean "The Military Base". And just by doing a simple survey to all countries, cities, and places were they say "Al-Qaeda" exists, we can always find an American Military Base "Al-Qaeda" in those countries! Besides, "The Base" that is mostly found in many countries around the world in again The American Military Base. Anyway, I urge everyone to be very careful from "The Base"! It could be next to your home :)

John Harte 8 years ago

Your comment shows how little you know about Western governments and political systems. A western government has an obligation to inform its citizens of possible threats overseas picked up from intelligence gathering, this is part of the democratic mandate whereby a government is elected to serve the people, and not the other way round. If a Western country's citizens are harmed in an overseas terrorist incident and it is found out that the government had information that could have prevented such an incident, it could lose a president/prime minister's term in office and or be sued. We have such things as Freedom of Information legislation, government and public enquiries where leaders and ministers are obliged to be cross examined and a free press ready to criticise government and ask hard questions.

You have none of these and I doubt you ever will.