Higgins was working late in his office in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on Tuesday, Aug. 3, when at least two gunmen burst in and shot him. He was 59.
Investigators in Riyadh are looking at the possibility that the killers were criminals although the involvement of terrorists linked to al Qaeda has not been ruled out.
The body of the dead Irishman will be held by the authorities for several weeks while the investigation continues.
Condolences were offered to the dead man’s family by the Saudi government and also by the Irish foreign minister, Brian Cowen.
“A cold-blooded attack of this sort, on a civilian worker such as Mr. Higgins, is repugnant and shocking, and will be perceived so internationally,” Cowen said. “I expect that the Saudi authorities will do everything in their power to bring his killers to justice.”
The FBI, meanwhile, has offered to assist in the investigation. The bureau is already investigating the murders of several American civilians in Saudi Arabia.
Higgins was from Mervue on the east side of Galway City. He worked for the Saudi-owned Rocky for Trade and Construction company.
He was shot in the head and chest.
Saudi police have questioned company workers and have suggested that the use
of a pistol with a silencer in the murder pointed to the involvement of criminals as opposed to terrorists. However, the killing of yet another foreign worker in the kingdom would also serve the purposes of terror groups who have been targeting such individuals for kidnapping and murder in recent months.
The dead man was the second Irish national to die violently in Saudi Arabia this year. An Irish cameraman working for the BBC, Simon Cumbers, was shot dead in Riyadh in June.
Al Qaeda was held responsible by Saudi authorities for the murder of Cumbers, who was 36 and from County Meath.
Ironically, Cumbers was working on a report about increasing fear among foreign workers in Saudi Arabia in the wake of an earlier terror attack that killed 22 people in the city of Khobar.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin has a current travel advisory in place that warns Irish nationals not to undertake non-essential travel to Saudi Arabia and Irish nationals already in the kingdom are being asked to register with the Irish Embassy in Riyadh.
Estimates put the number of Irish nationals currently working in Saudi Arabia at between 1,200 and 1,400.