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Saudi Bust In Deadly Bombing

Police have detained a man in connection with the Nov. 8 terrorist attack that killed 17 people, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

The arrest was the first in connection with the suicide bombing of the Muhaya housing compound in the capital Riyadh.

Police found the militant hiding in a place that contained a small arsenal — one surface-to-air missile, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and explosives, the ministry said in a statement. The premises also contained "pamphlets inciting terrorist acts," the statement added.

The statement quoted an unidentified official as saying that the man was arrested Nov. 26, but his identity would not be revealed to protect the ongoing investigation.

"Searches and investigations are continuing to arrest all those related to this terror cell," the statement said.

The nighttime attack on Muhaya compound killed 17 people and wounded 122. The Interior Ministry has said that gunmen attacked the guards at the gate. Then two other assailants drove a jeep disguised as a police vehicle into the compound and detonated its explosives.

Police have identified those in the vehicle as Saudis who were wanted in security-related cases.

The bombing was preceded by warnings of a pending terrorist attack issued by the Australian, British and U.S. embassies in Riyadh. The U.S. Embassy and its consulates in other Saudi cities closed just hours before the attacks, citing the terror risk.

Another such warning was issued Tuesday, when U.S. Embassies warned of possible terror attacks a housing compound for Westerners in Saudi Arabia. There were similar warnings for Western targets in Kenya.

Terrorists had the Seder Village compound in Riyadh under "active surveillance," the Embassy spokeswoman in Saudi Arabia, Carol Kalin, told The Associated Press by phone from the Saudi capital. She said other housing complexes may also be targeted.

Kalin said the embassy had barred its American employees and dependents from visiting housing compounds in Riyadh between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. "except for official business."

"The Embassy continues to be concerned about the current security situation in Saudi Arabia, particularly the housing compounds in the Riyadh areas," Kalin said.

There are some 30,000 Americans living in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Embassy was scheduled to resume work Wednesday following a weeklong closure for a Muslim feast.

The Embassy's warning advises Americans in Riyadh to vary times and routes for essential travel, park vehicles in protected areas, check vehicles before use, and places and areas where Westerners are known to congregate.

Echoing the U.S. Embassy's advisory, Britain Tuesday backed the U.S. warning and also advised its citizens in Riyadh to "adopt a low profile."

Tuesday's terror warning was only the latest in a string of alerts issued by Western governments to citizens living or visiting in Saudi Arabia, which is in a precarious position in the war on terrorism. It is a close U.S. ally, but also was home to 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, leading some to question the Arab kingdom's commitment to fighting militants.

Saudi Arabia has been working to overcome that perception, as well as to put down fundamentalist opposition to the long-ruling house of Fahd.

In May, Islamic suicide bombers attacked three compounds for foreigners in Riyadh, detonating vehicle bombs that killed 35 people including the nine assailants. The attacks triggered a massive crackdown with security forces detaining about 600 suspects, of whom nearly 200 were soon released.

The attacks generated considerable soul-searching among Saudi intellectuals, with some newspaper columnists saying the strict interpretation of Islam followed in schools and mosques could have contributed to the militancy.

The government responded by announcing new guidelines for mosque sermons and promising to allow citizens to vote in municipal elections — a first in a kingdom that has no parliament.

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