Wednesday 7 December 2016

Suicide bomb attacks hit cities across Saudi Arabia

Angus McDowall in Riyadh

Published 05/07/2016 | 02:30

Muslim worshippers gather after a suicide bomber detonated a device near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Reuters
Muslim worshippers gather after a suicide bomber detonated a device near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, 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
Security personnel in front of a mosque as police stage a second controlled explosion, after a suicide bomber was killed and two other people wounded in a blast near the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Reuters
General view of security personnel in front of a mosque as police stage a second controlled explosion, after a suicide bomber was killed and two other people wounded in a blast near the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Reuters
TV grab from footage released by Al-Ekhbariya shows Saudi security forces investigate the scene of an explosion in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A suicide bomber carried out an attack early Monday near an American diplomatic site in the western Saudi city of Jeddah, according to the Interior Ministry. Photo: Al-Ekhbariya via AP
Muslim worshippers gather after a suicide bomber detonated a device near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Reuters
Muslim worshippers gather after a suicide bomber detonated a device near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, July 4, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Muslim worshippers gather after a suicide bomber detonated a device near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, July 4, 2016. REUTERS/Handout

Suicide bombers struck three cities across Saudi Arabia yesterday, killing at least four security officers in an apparently co-ordinated campaign of attacks as Saudis prepared to break their fast on the penultimate day of the holy month of Ramadan.

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The explosions targeting US diplomats, Shi'ite worshippers and a security headquarters at a mosque in the holy city of Medina followed days of mass killings claimed by the Islamic State group in Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq. The attacks all seem to have been timed to coincide with the approach of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that celebrates the end of the Islamic holy month.

A suicide bomber detonated a bomb at a parking lot outside the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, the second-holiest site in Islam, a Saudi security spokesman said.

"Security men noticed a suspicious person among those approaching the Prophet's Mosque in an open area used as parking lots for visitors' cars. As they confronted him, he blew himself up with an explosive belt, which resulted in his death and the martyrdom of four of the security men," the spokesman said. Five other officers were wounded, the statement added.

A video sent to Reuters by a witness to the aftermath of the Medina bombing showed a large blaze among parked cars in the fading evening light, with the sound of sirens in the background.

Read More: Death toll from truck bomb attack on busy Baghdad street rises to 157

TV grab from footage released by Al-Ekhbariya shows Saudi security forces investigate the scene of an explosion in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A suicide bomber carried out an attack early Monday near an American diplomatic site in the western Saudi city of Jeddah, according to the Interior Ministry. Photo: Al-Ekhbariya via AP
TV grab from footage released by Al-Ekhbariya shows Saudi security forces investigate the scene of an explosion in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A suicide bomber carried out an attack early Monday near an American diplomatic site in the western Saudi city of Jeddah, according to the Interior Ministry. Photo: Al-Ekhbariya via AP

Other pictures circulating on social media showed dark smoke billowing from flames near the Mosque of the Prophet, originally built in the 7th century by the Prophet Muhammad, who is buried there along with his first two successors.

In Qatif, an eastern city that is home to many members of the Shi'ite minority, at least one and possibly two explosions struck near a Shi'ite mosque. The security spokesman said the body of a bomber and two other people had been identified, without providing any more details.

Witnesses described body parts, apparently of a suicide bomber, in the aftermath.

Read More: Nine Italians and seven Japanese killed in Islamic attack on popular Dhaka restaurant

Muslim worshippers gather after a suicide bomber detonated a device near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, July 4, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Muslim worshippers gather after a suicide bomber detonated a device near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, July 4, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Read More: 42 killed, hundreds injured in suicide bomb attacks on Istanbul airport

A resident of the city said there were believed to be no casualties there apart from the attacker, as worshippers had already gone home to break their fasts. Civil defence forces were cleaning up the area and police were investigating, the resident said.

Wounded

Hours earlier a suicide bomber was killed and two people were wounded in a blast near the US Consulate in the kingdom's second city, Jeddah.

A Saudi security official said an attacker parked a car near the US consulate in Jeddah before detonating the device. The blast was the first bombing in years to attempt to target foreigners in the kingdom. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Authorities identified the attacker as a 34-year-old Pakistani driver named Abdullah Qalzar Khan, who lived with his wife and family in the city.

An official of the US state department said no American citizens or consulate staff were hurt in the Jeddah blast.

Meanwhile, the death toll from Sunday's truck bombing at a bustling Baghdad commercial street rose to 157 yesterday as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered new security measures in the Iraqi capital.

The attack, claimed by Isil, was one of the worst single bombings in Iraq over more than a decade of war and insurgency. It underscored the terrorists' ability to attack the capital despite a string of battlefield losses elsewhere in the country and fuelled public anger towards the government.

Police and health officials said the death toll had reached 157, and that it was likely to increase even further, as rescuers are still looking for missing people. At least 12 people were confirmed missing. Some 190 people were wounded, the officials said.

A string of smaller bombings elsewhere in Baghdad yesterday killed 10 people and wounded 31, the officials said

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