- Suicide bombings suspected to be planned to coincide with important Muslim holidays have detonated across three Saudi cities, killing at least four
- Disturbing footage of the bombings have spread across social media platforms, inducing alarm
- The Us Department assures it is closely monitoring the situation and encourages citizens in Saudi to stay aware
Suicide bombers have attacked three cities across Saudi Arabia on Monday. The strike has killed at least four security officers in a seemingly collaborated campaign of attacks that would coincide with Saudis breaking their fast on the penultimate day of the holy month of Ramadan.
These explosions targeting US diplomats, Shi'ite worshippers and a security headquarters at a mosque in the holy city of Medina followed days filled with mass killing the Islamic State claims to be orchestrating in Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq. There are suspicions that these attacks have been timed to coincide with the start of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that commemorates the end ofthe Islamic holy month.
A Saudi security spokesman revealed that a suicide bomber set off a bomb at a parking lot outside the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. This is the second-holiest site in Islam.
He explained that security personnel noticed a suspicious person trying to blend in with the crowd approaching the Prophet's Mosque. When they confronted him, the man set the bomb off with an explosive belt, resulting in his death and the martyrdom of four security men.
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Five other officers were also wounded in the encounter.
Another Saudi security official said that the second assailant parked a car near the US consulate in Jeddah before setting off the device. Footage sent to Reuters by a witness to the moments following the Medina bombing showed a huge blaze between parked cars in the fading evening light, with the ominous wail of sirens in the background. A picture depicted a burnt and bleeding man on a stretcher in a hospital.
Other pictures making rounds on social media show dark and heavy smoke rising from flames near the Mosque of the Prophet, originally built in the 7th century by the Prophet Muhammad. He is buried there, along with his first two immediate successors.
In the eastern city of Qatif, home to many members of the Shi'ite minority, there has been at least one confirmed explosion, and two more that have yet to be investigated. The explosions struck near a Shi'ite mosque, and the body of a bomber as well as two other people have been identified.
A city resident reached by telephone revealed that there may be no casualties apart from the bomber, as worshippers had already left for home to break their fasts by the time. Civil defense forces were merely cleaning up the area, alongside with the police who were conducting investigations.
An unverified video allegedly showing the aftermath of the Qatif blast is circulating on social media. It shows an agitated crowd on a street, with a raging fire close by and a bloody appendage on the ground.
Hours earlier, a suicide bomber killed himself and wounded two other people in a blast near the US Consulate located in the Kingdom's second city, Jeddah.
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This blast is the first bombing in years to attempt to prey on foreigners in the kingdom. No immediate claim of responsibility has been issued.
Authorities have identified the attacker as Abdullah Qaizar Khan, a 34-year-old Pakistani driver who lived with his wife and family in the city.
An official of the US State Department announced that no American citizens nor consulate staff were hurt in the Jeddah blast. He added that the United States was aware of the explosions in Qatif and Medina, and would closely monitor the situation.
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The State Department, he said, encouraged US citizens currently in Saudi Arabia to "to be aware of their surroundings, and keep security and situational awareness levels high."
The Islamic State has implemented a series of bombings and shooting attacks in Saudi Arabia since mid-2014. These attacks have killed hundreds of people, mostly members of the Shi'ite Muslim minority and security services.
Police forces as well as groups of local volunteers increased security near mosques in Qatif after suicide bombings hit mosques in Shi'ite areas last year, murdering dozens. Another suicide blast at a mosque frequented by security forces killed 15 on the same year.
The top Saudi clerical body has condemned these attacks.
"They are renegades from the (true) religion who have left behind the Muslim flock and their imam, violating all sanctities," the Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars said in a statement. They have no religion." -