RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Six Saudi clerics who once espoused Islamic radicalism condemned a wave of attacks on Westerners, part of the kingdom's efforts to rally its people against Al Qaeda's stepped-up campaign to oust the ruling family.
The US ambassador in Saudi Arabia met yesterday with relatives of two Americans who were the latest victims of militant attacks: Kenneth Scroggs, who was gunned down in his garage, and Paul M. Johnson, who was kidnapped, reportedly after being drugged.
Ambassador James C. Oberwetter said he expressed his condolences to Scroggs's widow and gave Johnson's wife ''my hopes for his safe return."
Oberwetter said he told the relatives that Saudi authorities have assured him they were ''doing everything possible to resolve this kidnapping case."
A group identifying itself as ''Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula" has claimed responsibility for the slaying and the kidnapping, as well as other attacks in recent weeks.
US and Saudi officials say the attacks aim to drive off foreign workers on whom Saudi Arabia relies in its crucial oil and technology sectors.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Americans in the kingdom were advised ''to practice good personal and security procedures" and report anything suspicious to Saudi police.
The US Embassy has advised Americans to leave Saudi Arabia, and Britain has authorized the voluntary departure of nonessential embassy staff and their families.
As part of its campaign to try to discredit Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, the Saudi government allowed the six clerics -- all of whom have past links to militants and have served prison time -- to issue on the state news agency their statement condemning the attacks.
At least two of the six clerics who signed the condemnation, Safar bin Abdul Rahman al-Hawali and Salman al-Awdah, were once close to bin Laden. Bin Laden praised them in videotapes a few years ago.
In their statement, the clerics called the attacks ''a heinous crime."
''We condemn the criminal acts committed by the deviant group in a number of Saudi areas in which many innocent people were killed," they said in the statement, issued Sunday.
''The nation's theologians are in consensus that it is a sin to kill a life without a right, be it Muslim or non-Muslim," the statement said.
Scroggs worked for Advanced Electronics Co., a Saudi firm that has US defense giant Lockheed Martin among its customers.
Johnson, 49, of New Jersey was employed by Lockheed Martin and worked on the radar systems of