RIYADH: An Islamic State (IS) fighter killed three people and wounded four when he blew himself up in a car outside a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia on Friday – the second such attack in a week.
The bombing, again coinciding with the weekly Friday prayers, took place in the oil-rich, Shia-dominated Eastern Province.
IS, in a statement carried by militant accounts on Twitter, quickly said the attack was carried out by “a soldier of the caliphate, Abu Jandal al-Jazrawi”. It said the bomber managed to “reach the target despite heavy protection” outside the mosque.
The official Saudi Press Agency, citing an interior ministry spokesman, said the suicide bomber disguised in women’s clothing detonated his device at the mosque’s entrance. “Authorities have managed to foil a terrorist crime targeting people performing the Friday prayers at Al-Anoud mosque in Dammam,” he said.
The bomber “detonated the explosive belt he was wearing at the mosque entrance as security officials were on their way to check him,” he said, citing preliminary results of the investigation. The explosion happened just as the attacker’s vehicle stopped at a car park near the mosque.
The blast came exactly seven days after a suicide bomber exploded inside another Shia mosque in Eastern Province, killing 21 people and leaving dozens more injured.
Activist Nassima al-Sada, who arrived at the site after Friday’s bombing, said the assailant blew himself up after security volunteers tried to prevent him from entering the ladies’ section of the only Shia mosque in Dammam. Women were not allowed to pray at the mosque this week for security reasons, Sada said.
After the May 22 attack, residents had set up security committees to search those entering mosques during prayers, witnesses said. The authorities had not taken any extra security measures around Shia mosques despite last week’s attacks, they said.
Amnesty International said Saudi authorities must take “immediate steps” to protect Shias “from sectarian violence and put an end to decades of systematic discrimination”.
Most of the kingdom’s Shia minority live in the wealthy east, but they have long complained of marginalisation.
A Dammam resident told AFP that the Shia community was angry but would not allow the attackers to succeed in their goal of stoking sectarian tensions. “From our side, we’ll try not to have these guys succeed in their mission. We will still continue to work hand in hand,” he said.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) head Abdullatif al-Zayani condemned the “cowardly criminal act that contradicts all principles of Islam and humanity”. He reiterated the six-member GCC’s commitment to “uprooting terrorism regardless of its reasons or perpetrators”.
King Salman has vowed to punish anyone linked to last week’s “heinous crime”.
The country’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, has termed it a “criminal act” targeting national unity.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2015.
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