Investigators search for clues in Saudi explosion; American confirmed dead

Sunday, October 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ Shards of glass covered the street as crime scene investigators sifted through the wreckage Sunday looking for clues in a bomb explosion that killed an American and one other person and injured five.

The U.S. Embassy confirmed Sunday that an American was killed and another injured, but their names were withheld while officials notified their families. The nationality of the second person killed was not yet confirmed.

Saturday's blast on a busy shopping street in eastern Saudi Arabia appeared unrelated to the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

The injured also included a Briton and two Filipinos, said an Al-Fahd Hospital spokesman, adding that the American suffered ``serious facial injuries.'' The nationality of the fifth injured person was not immediately available.

A Philippine Embassy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two Filipinos were Richard de la Rosa, 33, and Dioasdado Baylomo, 37. The sound of the blast left them unable to hear, but they suffered no other injuries.

Earlier a U.S. Embassy official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said ``it seems that someone on foot threw a powerful bomb into the shopping area.'' Police had reported Saturday that the bomb had been left outside an electronics and watch shop and detonated by remote control.

The conflicting accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

The powerful blast on King Khaled Street, a shopping district popular with foreigners, shattered windows and damaged cars at 7:45 p.m., according to the U.S. Embassy official.

Security and immigration control were beefed up at the nearby King Fahd Causeway, the border crossing between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf island-nation of Bahrain.

A White House spokesman said Saturday's blast explosion appeared unrelated to the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The bombing is similar to a string of other explosions in the past year, which Saudi officials have said are linked to a settling of scores between criminals.

Two bombings in the capital, Riyadh, late last year killed a Briton and injured four others.

A Scottish man was injured in an explosion in Khobar in December. In March, a Briton and an Egyptian were injured in a bombing outside a large downtown Riyadh bookstore. In May, an American was seriously injured in Khobar when the package he was opening exploded in his face.

Three British men were arrested in Saudi Arabia in connection with some of the bombings and confessed on state-run TV.

In 1996, 19 U.S. servicemen were killed when members of dissident Saudi Hezbollah group bombed the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran, near Khobar. U.S. prosecutors have indicted 14 people in that case.

Following the 1996 attack, U.S. military personnel have moved to Prince Sultan Air Base in the Saudi desert.

Tensions have been high in the region following the Sept. 11. Washington accuses Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect in the attacks in New York and Washington and has warned Afghanistan's Taliban rulers to hand him over or face consequences.

U.S. officials have played down any disagreements with Saudi Arabia whether the United States could use the air base for military operations. U.S. Air Force F15s and F16s have been using the air base for patrols over southern Iraq. There are 4,500 U.S. military personnel at the base.