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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Saudi Arabia Goes on Heightened Terror Alert

Aired May 19, 2003 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: There were new warnings tonight that more terror attacks are planned against the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The ambassador from Saudi Arabia says his country is on heightened alert in the wake of last week's attacks. And new intelligence chatter suggesting more violence may be in the works yet again.
Sheila MacVicar watching this on the phone tonight from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Sheila, what are we learning? Good evening there.

SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (no audio) ... the Saudi ambassador to Washington, who happens to be here in Riyadh at the moment, has told a group of journalists tonight that he believes the suicide bombers who struck here last week were planning a much bigger operation and that he feared another devastating attack.

We have been hearing over the course of the last number of days from various officials here in Riyadh, including the U.S. ambassador, a view that there was a grave likelihood that the threat level had not diminished here in the kingdom with the attacks last week. The threat level in the kingdom is at this point the highest it has ever been. That comes from Saudi intelligence sources.

There is a view that the al Qaeda operatives or al Qaeda groups in the kingdom may be preparing to strike again and that comes at a time when Saudi officials say they have evidence that links last week's bombing to al Qaeda.

Now, what they're talking about, Bill, is for a number of reasons: one, we saw the attacks last week. Two, it is known that some of those who carried out the attacks survived them and fled and have not been found in spite of an intensive effort. And three, the planners of the attack, both of them associated with al Qaeda, both of them believed by various intelligence agencies who have been responsible, are still believed to be here in Saudi Arabia and still on the loose -- Bill.

HEMMER: Sheila, again, the word from the ambassador in Saudi Arabia to U.S. Was this a -- was this based on intelligence he had or was this just his own feeling again?

MACVICAR: There's a number of things. This is very consistent with what the U.S. said with what we heard in the FBI bulletin, which was released last Friday which, again, talked about a heightened state of alert.

A fear there was increasing intelligence, especially electronic chatter, that we may be at the beginning with the bombings in Riyadh and again in Casablanca on Friday. We may be at the beginning again of a wave of attacks, which perhaps would again target Saudi Arabia and perhaps even target in the United States. That is according to the bulletin released by the FBI to local law enforcement agencies late last week.

Now, in terms of what the ambassador was talking about here, he talked about various electronic chatter, reference to eavesdropping signals that have picked up intelligence from various sources that are listened to on a regular basis which strongly suggest, according to analysts, that something may be in the works.

Analysts also say that there was an alarming drop in the chatter just before the Riyadh attacks took place. They are not seeing that yet this time but they believe that something else may be in the works. No specifics -- Bill.

HEMMER: Sheila MacVicar by telephone tonight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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