Saudi TV shows Westerners confessing to bombings

Saudi Arabian television on Sunday showed three Westerners, a Briton, a Canadian and a Belgian, confessing to two bombings in the kingdom which killed one Briton and injured several other people.

The three men, who were shown separately sitting behind a desk, appeared nervous as they told of their roles in the car bombings in the Saudi capital Riyadh in November.

A man who identified himself as Alexander Mitchell, a Briton, said he and the Canadian man, named as William Sampson, carried out the bombing which killed Christopher Rodway and injured his wife on November 17 in Riyadh.

"I confirm and confess that I received orders to carry out the bombing here in Riyadh on November 17 against Christopher Rodway, a British citizen. William Sampson, a Canadian, helped me carry out the bombing," Mitchell said, according to an Arabic voiceover of his remarks.

Mitchell said he was involved together with Sampson and the Belgian man, whose name was unclear in the Arabic translation, in the second car bombing on November 22 which injured three Britons and an Irish woman.

In London, British officials said they were urgently seeking confirmation of the latest developments in the case.

"The British embassy was not forewarned that Mr Mitchell was to appear on television or that he had made a confession," a Foreign Office spokeswoman told Reuters.


Mitchell was detained in December and was informed then that his detention was in connection with alcohol-related offences, the spokeswoman said. He was last visited by consular officials on January 28.

In the television broadcast, the other two men also spoke of their involvement, but did not say who ordered the bombings.

The Belgian said he was only involved in the second bombing after he overheard Mitchell and Sampson discuss the first blast.

The men described how they planted the explosives in the two cars and used remote control devices to detonate them.

Both Mitchell and the Belgian said they worked at Saudi military hospitals. Sampson said he worked as a marketing consultant at the Saudi Industrial Development Fund.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said on television before the apparent confessions were aired that the kingdom knew who "the source" for the explosives was and would reveal further details at a later stage.

"You will notice from the confessions that there are questions as to who is behind these bombings. I would like to assert that the source of the explosives and many other facts is known to us, but for the interest of the investigation we decided not to reveal that now," Prince Nayef said.

He did not mention a third bombing in December in eastern Saudi Arabia in which a Scotsman was blinded in one eye.

Britain has announced the arrest of five of its citizens in Saudi Arabia for what diplomats said was believed to be alcohol-related offences. Saudi Arabia had announced the arrest of several people, including an American, a Belgian and a Lebanese man.


Prince Nayef said nine other people "from different nationalities" were under arrest for "illegal" activities and were still being investigated. He said no Saudi citizens were involved.

A Saudi newspaper last year linked some of the arrests to the bombings, and other newspapers reported then that the bombings were related to illegal activities, including trading in alcohol which is banned in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Saudi officials have repeatedly said that personal motives were behind the bombings after media reports that they could be linked to anti-Western sentiment in the Arab world over perceived U.S. support for Israel at the expense of Palestinians.

Prince Nayef said officials from the embassies of those detained had been allowed to visit them.

British diplomats were granted access to Mitchell and another Briton late last month after Britain voiced concern to the kingdom that embassy officials had not seen the men. Other British detainees had been visited before.