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Hunt for Riyadh bomb masterminds

Saudi officials suspect al Qaeda may be behind the attacks.
Saudi officials suspect al Qaeda may be behind the attacks.

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U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell: 'Cowardly individuals' behind the attacks.
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Suspicions of al Qaeda link in bombings.
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Investigators are scouring Saudi Arabia for suspected al Qaeda masterminds behind the suicide car bombings in Riyadh that killed at least 34 people.

Washington says it is extremely concerned further attacks may be planned, with both Saudi and U.S. authorities saying the Riyadh bombings may be just the start of a terror campaign.

The triple car bombings on mostly expatriate housing complexes Monday night killed eight Americans, seven Saudis, three Filipinos, two Jordanians, a Briton, an Irish citizen, a Swiss national, a Lebanese, and an Australian of Lebanese origin.

Nearly 200 were wounded and a number of people are still missing.

The attacks also killed the nine suspected bombers, whose charred bodies were found at the estates.(Locations of blasts)

The assailants crashed their cars through the gates of two compounds, before setting off their bombs, while at the third compound the car blew up outside the gate. (More on the scene)

The United States and Saudi Arabia have promised to find the masterminds behind the blasts, with U.S. President George W. Bush vowing they would face "American justice."

An FBI team has been dispatched to Riyadh to help in the investigation.

U.S. and Saudi officials have said the simultaneous attacks in the capital bore all the hallmarks of al Qaeda, the terrorist group headed by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden.

Saudi authorities suspect one team was behind Monday night's bombings. Police in the kingdom reportedly had the group on a watch-list when the attacks occurred.

One Saudi official has called the attacks "a declaration of war" against his country.

In a national address, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah condemned the attacks as un-Islamic and the work of "monsters" and vowed to destroy the group responsible. (Full story)

"God willing, after that, this group will not be able to stand up again," he said.

"There is no place for terror, but there is a place for decisive deterrence against them and to any ideology that feeds them."

Al Qaeda opposes the Saudi government and the presence of the U.S. military in the country.

Of the 19 hijackers who took part in the attacks of September 11, 2001, 15 were Saudi citizens.(Special report)

The blasts came less than two weeks after the U.S. State Department warned Americans of possible terror attacks in Saudi Arabia.

The bombings were carried out hours before a scheduled visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is on a Middle East tour to explain U.S. policy.

Last week, the Saudi government issued an all-points bulletin for 19 men -- 17 of them Saudis -- on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks.

The U.S. State Department has ordered the departure of all non-essential U.S. personnel and their families from Saudi Arabia.

In a major policy shift, Washington announced last month that its U.S. Combined Air Operations Center would be moved from Saudi Arabia to nearby Qatar.

In the past, U.S. authorities and lawmakers have criticized Saudi Arabia for its cooperation, or perceived lack of, in cracking down on terrorism.

FBI officials were especially critical of what they called a lack of Saudi cooperation in the 1996 investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing, which killed 19 U.S. service members.

In other developments:

A Saudi civil defense worker talks with a police officer in front of a destroyed complex.
A Saudi civil defense worker talks with a police officer in front of a destroyed complex.

• The British Foreign Office said after the blasts there was a "high threat" of further attacks against Western interests in Saudi Arabia, possibly involving chemical or biological weapons.

•  Al-Majallah, a London, England-based Saudi newspaper, reported it received a weekend e-mail message from an al Qaeda member implying the attacks were an al Qaeda operation.

•  Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Riyadh bombings and an attack on Chechen government buildings that killed 52 people show the continuing need for a global fight against terrorism.

-- CNN correspondents Rula Amin, David Ensor, John King, Andrea Koppel and Brent Sadler, and producer Elise Labott, contributed to this report.

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