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2004-06-01

Saudi Attack Kills 22 Mostly Foreign Oil Workers, Sends Oil Prices Soaring

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Militants killed 22 people in the Saudi Arabian city of Khobar this weekend and held at least 40 more hostage in an upscale housing complex mainly populated by foreigners working in the oil industry. We speak with political science professor and Middle East expert As’ad AbuKhalil.

Islamic militants killed 22 people in the Saudi Arabian city of Khobar this weekend and held at least 40 more hostage in an upscale housing complex mainly populated by foreigners working in the oil industry.

Shortly after dawn on Saturday, a group of armed men dressed in military-style uniforms scaled an unguarded wall of the compound in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern province and then went door to door, pulling residents from their homes.

The gunmen reportedly separated Muslims from non-Muslims, releasing a Lebanese woman after telling her they were in search of "infidels" and Westerners.

13 foreigners died in the initial attack, the others died when Saudi commandoes raided the complex in an attempt to end the 25- hour siege. Three of the four attackers escaped and remain at large.

Among the 22 people killed were workers from Asia, Africa and Europe, as well as four Saudis and an American. A militant web site has posted an audio statement by a leader of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia, taking responsibility for the attacks. In the statement, he says the attack was an attempt to destabilize worldwide oil markets and the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

Oil prices rose sharply in opening trading today in response to the attack. Prices hit 20-year highs in May but eased last week after Saudi Arabia pledged to increase production and urged OPEC to do the same. The attack is the third on foreigners in Saudi Arabia in a month.

  • As’ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus and visiting professor at UC, Berkeley. He is the author of several books including Bin Laden, Islam, and America’s New "War on Terrorism" and the forthcoming book Saudi Arabia and The US: The Tale of the Good Taliban. He runs a new blog called "The Angry Arab News Service."

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