Friday 30 September 2016

Fourth of July suicide bomb attack near US diplomatic site in Saudi Arabia

Aya Batrawy

Published 04/07/2016 | 06:35

An aerial view shows Muslim worshippers praying at the Grand mosque, the holiest place in Islam, in the holy city of Mecca during Ramadan, on Lailat al-Qadr, or Night of Power, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Reuters
An aerial view shows Muslim worshippers praying at the Grand mosque, the holiest place in Islam, in the holy city of Mecca during Ramadan, on Lailat al-Qadr, or Night of Power, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Reuters

A suicide bomber has carried out an attack near a US diplomatic site in Saudi Arabia's western city of Jeddah.

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The Interior Ministry said the attacker detonated his suicide vest when security guards approached him near a hospital car park. The attacker died and two security men received minor injuries.

Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki said the attacker caught the attention of the security guards, who noticed he was acting suspiciously at a junction on the corner of the heavily-fortified US consulate in Jeddah, near the Dr Soliman Fakeeh Hospital.

Most of the consulate's staff had reportedly moved offices to a new location.

The ministry did not say if the attacker was intending to target the US diplomatic compound, but said an investigation was under way to determine his identity.

A US State Department spokesman said US officials were are working with Saudi authorities to collect more information.

A 2004 al Qaida-linked militant attack on the US consulate in Jeddah killed five locally-hired consular employees and four gunmen. The three-hour battle on the compound came amid a wave of al Qaida attacks targeting Westerners and Saudi security posts.

More recently, Saudi Arabia has been a target of Islamic State group attacks that have killed dozens of people.

The extremist group views the Western-allied Saudi monarchy and government as heretics. Saudi Arabia is part of the US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.

In June, the Interior Ministry reported 26 terror attacks had taken place in the kingdom in the last two years. Local IS affiliates have targeted minority Shiites and security officials.

The attack comes just days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in which observant Muslims fast daily from dawn to dusk.

The US embassy in Riyadh regularly issues advisory messages for US citizens in Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday, the embassy issued a message reminding anyone taking part in religious rituals or other public events to be aware of their surroundings.

It urged Americans to "take extra precautions when travelling throughout the country" and advised citizens to "carefully consider the risks of travelling to Saudi Arabia".

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