American diplomatic posts in Saudi Arabia have been closed at least through Tuesday after an assault by gunmen on the U.S. consulate in Jeddah. Officials say five non-American consulate employees were killed in the incident along with four members of the Saudi national guard who responded to the attack and three of the gunmen.
Officials here are still trying to piece together the circumstances of the mid-morning attack in the Saudi port on the Red Sea.
But they say the gunmen did manage to get inside the heavily-guarded compound and killed five non-American consulate employees and wounded at least four others before being subdued.
The staffers killed and wounded were apparently in a building near the gate where the attackers entered. The American staff members were in another part of the compound and took refuge in a fortified room.
One American was said to have been slightly injured during the incident, but not by the attackers.
The attack was the latest in a series of assaults targeting foreigners in Saudi Arabia in the last 18 months.
At a White House photo session with Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawar, President Bush paid tribute to Saudi authorities for responding to the attack as quickly as they did, and expressed "heartfelt" condolences for the Saudi guardsmen killed in the attack.
Mr. Bush said the incident shows that terrorists are continuing to target the United States and its friends in the Middle East:"The attacks in Saudi Arabia remind us that the terrorists are still on the move. They're interested in affecting the will of free countries. They want us to leave Saudi Arabia. They want us to leave Iraq. They want us to grow timid and weary in the face of their willingness to kill randomly, and kill innocent people."
Mr. Bush said while some of the attackers were killed, others were captured and he is confident that Saudi authorities will share any information gained about the attack with the United States.
Officials here said the affiliation of the attackers, if any, remains unclear. Saudi officials referred to them as members of a "deviant group," a term they commonly use for Islamic militants.
The State Department said the Jeddah consulate, the U.S. embassy in Riyahd and the other U.S. consulate, in Dhahran, would be closed at least through Tuesday for a review of security.
Because of attacks against foreigners in Saudi Arabia and recurring terrorism threats, the three U.S. diplomatic facilities in the country were recently designated as non-dependent posts. That means that families of diplomats can no longer reside in the country.
The latest State Department travel alert for Saudi Arabia issued a month ago warned U.S. citizens to defer travel to the country, and strongly urged private Americans already in Saudi Arabia to depart.
Despite the warnings, officials say the resident American community in Saudi Arabia still numbers in the thousands.