Wednesday, September 28, 2011

US Embassy, Riyadh, Alerts Westerners to the Possibility of Being Kidnapped

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia today (September 28) reported that an unnamed terrorist group may be planning to kidnap Westerners in the capital of Riyadh and urged U.S. citizens to exercise caution. As it often does when such threats arise, the US Embassy reminded US citizens "to exercise prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times."

COMMENT: Reportedly, the warning was based on "solid information," but that the embassy had no plans to reduce the hours it was open or repatriate any staff or their family members. The fact that the Saudi government said it had no information about the threat that prompted the U.S. warning, indicates that the US Department of State did not confer with the Saudis prior to the threat being announced.

Our readers are reminded that the kidnapping of Westerners in Saudi Arabia is not a new phenomenon, recalling that Westerners were kidnapped in Saudi Arabia during 2003-2006. First of all, there are sufficient numbers of terrorist elements in the Kingdom that have the same freedom of movement in Saudi Arabia that Osama bin Laden had in Pakistan for years.

It is rarely known exactly what "solid" means within the context of State Department warnings. Based upon how dramatically politics are now changing throughout the Middle East, in countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Yemen, Westerners living in Saudi Arabia would well be well-advised to (1) be predictably unpredictable; (2) travel to and from work in groups; (3) avoid being out at night alone; (4) Car pool with friends, using different vehicles; and (5) telecommute every other day or so.

Generally speaking, diplomats are less likely to be targeted, considering that the Saudi government is responsible for protecting them. Conversely, Western business executives and military contractors who are afforded a lesser degree of personal security than accredited diplomats are more likely to be targeted. Bombing attacks on Western residences should not be ruled out.

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