Consulate Attackers Wanted U.S. Hostages

ByABC News
December 16, 2004, 7:14 PM

Dec. 16, 2004 — -- The men who attacked the U.S. Consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on Dec. 6 and killed five non-U.S. employees had planned to take American hostages, U.S. officials told ABC News.

The five men were carrying 20 sets of plastic handcuffs, large knives and video recording equipment, according to officials.

Four of the men were killed in the attack, and one was captured by authorities.

And they were praised today in a new audio statement by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden that was posted on the Internet. Intelligence officials said they had determined "with high confidence" that the tape was authentic.

"We beseech Allah to grant mercy to the mujahedeen who stormed the American Consulate in Jiddah," bin Laden said in Arabic. "Those people [the Americans] do not deserve to be secure anywhere in the world."

Bin Laden also called for his followers to attack oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries in the Gulf, as he said America and other Western countries were stealing the oil of Muslim lands.

"Stop them from getting it," he said. "Concentrate your operations on it, especially in Iraq and the Gulf. This is their death."

Dick Clarke, former White House counterterrorism czar and now an ABC News consultant, described bin Laden's message as a marked change from statements past.

"He's given a broad, new tactical direction for his attack," Clarke said. "Go after a specific oil industry in a specific country."

And officials have long feared a much more serious attack on the giant oil refinery at Ras Tanura on the Gulf, the world's largest petroleum port.

Clarke warned that the global oil situation remains precarious. "There's a very thin margin of excess in the worldwide oil capacity," he said. "Any fluctuation in the operation of a facility like Ras Tanura and the price will go through the roof and there could actually be shortages."

Bin Laden's message today also dealt extensively with his longtime nemesis, the Saudi royal family. He called on his followers to use force to remove them.