An Internet statement signed by an al-Qaida cell in Saudi Arabia warned Monday that the terror network will target Western airlines, military bases and residential compounds and told Muslims to stay away from Westerners.
The warning of attacks in “the near future” appeared on a Web site known for posting messages from militants, including the video in which a terror group with al-Qaida links executed Nicholas Berg, an American kidnapped in Iraq.
The authenticity of the statement, signed “Al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula,” could not be confirmed. Al-Qaida uses the term “Arabian Peninsula” to refer to Saudi Arabia because it rejects the rule of the Al Saud dynasty, after whom the country is named.
In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli noted that existing U.S. travel warnings call attention to possible threats to commercial aviation in Saudi Arabia and urge Americans to take that into account when making their travel plans.
The statement did not specify that airline attacks would be limited to Saudi Arabia — but suggested that more attacks on Western targets in the kingdom were imminent.
It warned that everything associated with “crusaders” — the term used by militants for Americans and Europeans — including “compounds, bases and means of transport, especially Western and American airlines, will be the direct targets of our next operations in the path of holy war ... especially in the near future.”
The world’s second-largest travel firm, Carlson Wagonlit Travel Inc., said such threats are not new and the industry had already upgraded its security.
“If in fact this is a legitimate statement from al-Qaida, we are certainly not going to change the way we do business,” said Steve Loucks, a spokesman for the Plymouth, Minn.-based company. “We definitely believe this government is working to strengthen and secure our skies.”
The statement warns all Muslims to avoid “contact with the American and Western crusaders and all nonbelievers in the Arabian peninsula.”
Muslims should stay away from Americans and Westerners “in their homes, compounds, movements and means of transport — in all shapes and forms.”
The statement said the warning aimed to spare Muslim blood. “We act only to protect them, their religion, honor and life,” the statement said.
Militants have stepped up attacks on foreigners in Saudi Arabia in past weeks, most recently in a shooting Sunday that killed an Irish cameraman and wounded a British Broadcasting Corp. reporter.
On May 29, gunmen attacked a complex housing oil workers in the eastern city of Khobar, killing 22 people, most of them foreigners. During that assault — claimed by al-Qaida — the gunmen reportedly separated out and spared Muslims and Arabs and killed non-Muslims.
Previous bombings by al-Qaida that killed Muslims raised an outcry in Saudi Arabia against the terror network.
The statement called on “all security personnel, guards of crusader compounds and American bases, and all those that have stood by America and its allies ... to return to the right path, to separate themselves from nonbelievers, to become their enemies and to fight holy war against them by money, word and weapon.”
“This enemy must be fought,” the statement said. “There is no other way but to fight it and eradicate it.”
The statement appeared to be concerned with the American presence in Saudi Arabia rather than in Iraq. It referred to the Arabian Peninsula in its signature and it spoke of “agents of the tyrannical Saudi government.”
The Web site has carried several statements and claims of responsibility from Islamic militants, most recently for the Khobar attack.