RIYADH: Suicide bombers struck three cities across Saudi Arabia on Monday, in an apparently coordinated campaign of attacks as Saudis prepared to break their fast on the penultimate day of the holy month of Ramazan.
The explosions targeting US diplomats, Shia worshippers and a security headquarters at a mosque in the holy city of Medina follow days of mass killings claimed by the Islamic State group, in Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq.
According to Al Arabiya, at least four Saudi security force members were killed in the suicide attack near Masjid Al Nabawi, regarded as one of Islam’s holiest sites.
The attacks all seem to have been timed to coincide with the approach of Eidul Fitr, the holiday that celebrates the end of the fast. A Saudi security official said an attacker parked a car near the US consulate in Jeddah before detonating the device.
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 a sound of sirens in the background.
A picture sent to Reuters showed a burnt and bleeding man lying on a stretcher in a hospital. 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 (pbuh), 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 Shia mosque.
Witnesses described body parts, apparently of a suicide bomber, in the aftermath. A resident of the city reached by telephone 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.
A video circulating on social media and purporting to show the aftermath of a Qatif blast showed an agitated crowd on a street, with a fire raging near a building, and a bloody body part lying on the ground. Reuters could not immediately verify the video.
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.
The Jeddah blast was the first bombing in years to attempt to target foreigners in the kingdom. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Islamic State has carried out a series of bombing and shooting attacks in Saudi Arabia since mid-2014 that have killed scores of people, mostly members of the Shia Muslim minority and security services. Police and groups of local volunteers increased security near mosques in Qatif after suicide bombings hit mosques in Shia areas last year, killing dozens.
Another suicide blast at a mosque used by security forces also killed 15 a year ago.
PM, Army chief condemn attacks
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned the terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, saying the people and government of Pakistan are grieved on the incident on the sacred soil.
In a statement on Tuesday, the premier said Pakistanis stands with their Saudi brethren and shares the same sentiments for those who lost their lives in the attacks.
Nawaz reiterated that Pakistan had an unflinching resolve against terrorism and expressed unity with the Saudi government to eliminate the menace.
Meanwhile, Army chief General Raheel Sharif called Saudi Defence Minister Prince Muhammad Bin Saleman and condemned the attacks, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
Sympathising with the affected families, General Raheel said Pakistan stands shoulder to shoulder with their Saudi brothers in fighting the menace of terrorism, the statement added.