Shock And Fear In Riyadh

Saudi civil defense officers are seen through the charred wreckage of a car at the site of the suicide bomb attack at the al-Hamra compound in eastern Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 14, 2003. AP

CBS News State Department Reporter Charles Wolfson traveled to Riyadh with Secretary of State Colin Powell. He described the aftermath of Monday's terrorist attack.



Teenagers walked around picking thru sharp pieces of metal which once were parts of a car. Toys, computers, mattresses and kitchen appliances were everywhere in haphazard piles of cinder-block debris.

"They say we support terrorism," a Saudi civil defense official told me today standing in the rubble of the al-Hamra residential compound. "We are victims like everyone else."

Spending a couple of hours walking through the area, which was one of three neighborhoods attacked by terrorists Monday night, you could see what he meant. As police and rescue personnel sifted through personal belongings and ordinary household items, residents of the area stood around and talked to their neighbors or tried to find a child's favorite stuffed animal, a family photo album or personal papers.

One resident, fighting back tears, told a small group of American reporters, "I hope you write about the Saudis and Muslims who died here. The Christian Arabs." He lost a close friend and was here to console his friend's wife, 8 months pregnant with the couple's first child.

A young African woman, married to an American, was holding her sister's two-week-old baby -- whose eye was injured in the attack. She plans to leave. "It's not safe here," she said. "Today this happened. Maybe tomorrow something else." Meanwhile her sister was sifting through what was left of her house, looking for passports -- so her family could leave the country.

Residents admitted to being in shock, as they walked the area looking at the twisted hulks of what had once been their cars. Residents said the bomb blast sent the car that brought the explosives flying through the air. It came down in a nearby swimming pool. Officials drained the pool and took away what was left of the vehicle.

The scene drew others too. A young Saudi investment banker with an MBA from Georgetown said he lost four of his closest friends. He would have been here too, except he said he had to stay at the office: "I'm the luckiest SOB in the world. I had to wait until the stock market in the States closed." After chatting for a few minutes he said, "we really have to go now. We have to go to the morgue."

By Charles Wolfson
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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