July 29, 2002
Unless you have lived for a while in a foreign country, you are probably unfamiliar with the "warden system." Ambassadors, or some other senior embassy official, solicit Americans living in a foreign country to volunteer to be a "warden." This is an unpaid, but often vital, post. Most of the job involves keeping in touch with other American citizens in one area of a foreign country and, in case of an emergency, getting information or instructions from the embassy and quickly distributing it to all the Americans in that "ward." The wardens, naturally, know more about embassy operations and are on more familiar terms with embassy personnel. Americans can often get information or advice from their warden rather than trying to get through to busy staff at the embassy. The warden system is rather ancient, and most other nations use a similar approach in countries where they have a lot of expatriates. In countries were life can be somewhat dangerous for Americans (that would include most Moslem states these days), wardens are frequently passing on messages about security matters. Below is a message passed on, via wardens, to Americans in Saudi Arabia recently;
"The Embassy requests that wardens pass the following message in its entirety to members of the American Community:
In reference to the Embassy's Warden Message of June 30, 2002, regarding the discovery of an explosive device underneath the vehicle of an American citizen
and his spouse and the discovery of a suspicious object under the vehicle of a British citizen at the Al Nakheel Residence Compound, the following update is being provided. In the case of the vehicle of the American citizen, the explosive device was a self-contained circular object approximately six inches in diameter and two inches thick. It
was covered in a dark cloth-like material and attached on the car's undercarriage directly below the driver's seat. In the case of the British citizen, the suspicious object was found not to be an explosive device.
The Embassy has received no confirmed reports of an explosive device being discovered on any vehicle since the incident involving the American citizen and his spouse on June 29, 2002.
With respect to vehicles, American citizens in Saudi Arabia should avoid leaving their cars unattended and keep them locked at all times. If left unattended, a thorough inspection of your vehicle, both interior and exterior is strongly advised. Inspection should include use of a flashlight to search underneath the car and checking under the hood and in the trunk. Know your car well. If any foreign objects or unfamiliar attachments are noticed in any place on, in, or under the vehicle, do not touch them. Contact your company representative or call the Saudi police by dialing 999. If you are not fluent in Arabic, you should have someone who is fluent assist you if you call the police.