Thursday, September 29, 2011

Update: Saudis Dispute US Embassy's Threat Alert That Westerners May be Kidnapped in Capital

An adviser to the Saudi Kingdom denied today (September 29) that there is any kidnapping threat for Westerners in Riyadh, adding that he has "no idea" what prompted U.S. officials to issue such a warning.If our readers will recall, when I filed my posting on this subject on September 28 ("US Embassy, Riyadh, Alerts Westerners to the Possibility of Being Kidnapped"), I intimated that it was unlikely that the threat alert had been coordinated with the Saudis.

COMMENT: Having worked as a Regional Security Officer (RSO) for the Department of State for 22 years, my experience tells me that the US Embassy did not coordinate the threat information with the Saudis very likely because of the need to protect the source of the information or because the Saudis would dispute the information, which they obviously have.

The adviser to the Saudi government described above, responded to questions from CNN via e-mail said "we were not told about the intelligence or warning ahead of time and have no idea what it is based on." The adviser criticized the content of the warning, including its mention of a "terrorist group." The advisor added: "The way the warning was written is completely unacceptable....There is (not) a terrorist group running around Riyadh threatening to kidnap expatriates."

My sense is that it perhaps would have been better for the Saudi government if the "advisor" had said much less than he did. He added in his response to CNN: "The hype that this warning is causing is absolutely unwarranted, and we will not tolerate it....The achievements of the Saudi counter-terrorism program will not be put into question or belittled by the Americans or anyone else for that matter!"

Although a State Department spokesperson stated during a press conference on Wednesday that the Department saw no need for expatriates to leave Saudi Arabia, the fact that the alert was released suggests that the source of the threat had been corroborated. My advice to Westerners living in Saudi Arabia is to follow the security awareness advice I offered yesterday, as well as that contained in the Department's security alert.

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