The co-ordinated attacks on residential compounds were carried out by nine suicide bombers who detonated cars packed with explosives only hours before US Secretary of State Colin Powell was scheduled to arrive in the kingdom. A fourth blast occurred early in the morning of 13 May at the headquarters of the Saudi Maintenance Company (Siyanco), a US/local joint venture, but caused no casualties.

Powell, who went ahead with his visit, described the attacks as ‘cowardly’ and said the bombings bore all the hallmarks of an Al-Qaeda operation. ‘Even at this moment of sadness, we will commit ourselves again to redouble our efforts, work closely with our Saudi friends, and friends all around the world to go after Al-Qaeda, to go after terrorists, to go after those who would kill innocent people, and to make sure that the scourge is lifted from the earth,’ Powell said at a press conference with his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal on 13 May.

In recent months there have been several attacks against Western targets in the kingdom. In late February a UK national was shot in Riyadh, while several others were targeted in drive-by shootings and car bombings.