Suicide bombings shake Saudi Arabia, 4 dead
Monday’s attacks on Islam’s spiritual home came as Muslims prepare for the feast this week marking the end of the holy fasting month Ramadan.
There were no claims of responsiblity, but the Islamic State group had urged its supporters to carry out attacks during the holy month and has claimed or been blamed for a wave of Ramadan shootings and bombings including in Orlando, Bangladesh, Istanbul and Baghdad.
The suicide bombing in Medina came during sunset prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque -- where Islam’s Prophet Mohammed is buried and which attracts millions of pilgrims each year.
The Saudi interior ministry said in a statement that security forces became suspicious of a man who was heading for the Prophet’s Mosque through a parking lot. “As they tried to stop him, he blew himself up with an explosive belt causing his death and the death of four security personnel,” the statement said, adding that five others were injured. The targeting of Medina caused widespread outrage.
Cairo-based Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, condemned the attacks and stressed “the sanctity of the houses of God, especially the Prophet’s Mosque.”
The interior ministry said the attack was carried out by a Pakistani resident identified as Abdullah Qalzar Khan, a 35-year-old private driver who had been living with his wife and her parents in Jeddah for 12 years.
Interior ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki told state news channel Al-Ekhbaria that the bomber was closer to a mosque in the area than to the consulate.
The ministry said in the statement published on the official SPA news agency that the bomber’s explosive belt had “partially” exploded.
The head of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, the kingdom’s main advisory body, said the attack was “unprecedented”.
“This crime, which causes goosebumps, could not have been perpetrated by someone who had an atom of belief in his heart,” Abdullah al-Sheikh said.
Iran, the main Shiite power, also condemned the bombings and called for Muslim unity against extremists.
“There are no more red lines left for terrorists to cross.Sunnis, Shiites will both remain victims unless we stand united as one,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.