Expatica news

Dutch intensify Saudi security measures

1 June 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch companies have taken extra security measures to protect their expat workers against terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, where three Dutch nationals escaped unscathed from the weekend’s hostage drama.

Terrorists linked with the Al Qaeda network took dozens of people hostage at offices and a housing complex for western employees of oil companies in the Saudi city Khobar on Saturday. The terrorists killed 22 people.

Saudi commandos freed 41 hostages from the Oasis housing complex on Sunday morning 25 hours after they were kidnapped. The leader of the gunmen was wounded and arrested, but the other three militants escaped, BBC reported

Three Dutch nationals were initially among the hostages, but were freed on Saturday before the Saudi commandos raided the housing complex. They are said to be doing well and were to be flown home as soon as possible. The Dutch embassy in Riyad confirmed the Dutch nationals were not tourists.

Meanwhile, Dutch dredging company Van Oord evacuated five of its employees from Saudi Arabia on Sunday. The Dutch nationals were working on a dredging ship near Khobar and will only be allowed to return when the security situation is considered adequate.

Ballast Nedam has 10 Dutch expats in Saudi Arabia and a company spokeswoman said they were being extra cautious in the aftermath of the hostage drama. They will remain temporarily in their guarded housing complex.

The company has refused to confirm what city they are living in and has withdrawn personnel who do not feel safe. The latter security measure has been in force for some time, news agency ANP reported on Tuesday.

Dutch airline KLM has 20 workers in the oil-rich Mid-East, but they are non-western nationals such as Pakistanis and Indians. They are also located in Damman, where a KLM spokesman said there is no heightened risk.

But KLM said it will closely monitor the situation in Saudi Arabia and has, for example, regular contact with Anglo-Dutch oil and fuel company Shell over the latest developments in the country.

Shell has 10 workers, including several Dutch nationals, based in the complex where the hostage drama occurred. None of them were kidnapped, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

The company has since offered to relatives of employees working in Saudi Arabia the possibility to leave the country. A spokesman said Shell would ensure “a good evacuation” for people who wish to leave Saudi Arabia.

Shell has only been active in Saudi Arabia for a short time after recently becoming the first international company to win approval for gas exploration work.

Millions of foreigners work in the Saudi oil industry and associated sectors, but the US has urged its citizens to leave the country out of concern for new terrorist attacks. Britain is advising against all but essential travel to Saudi Arabia.

The Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry is also advising against travel to Saudi Arabia, but for those who cannot delay their travel plans are being requested to register with the Dutch embassy.

Also, Dutch nationals already in Saudi Arabia are being urged to consider whether their continued stay in the country is necessary.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news