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Coordinated bombings rock Saudi Arabia

July 5, 2016

Three coordinated suicide bombings have shaken Saudi Arabia, including one near Islam's second holiest site. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attacks which came a day before the end of Ramadan.

Saudi-Arabien, Selbstmordanschlag in Medina
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Saudi Press Agency

Three separate suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia on Monday left at least four police dead and several people wounded, just a day before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

There was no claim of responsibility for the coordinated attacks, including one near the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Islam's second-holiest site and the burial place of Muhammad.

Tens of thousands had gathered to pray at the mosque for evening prayers when security guards approached a suspicious man at a nearby parking lot.

"Security forces suspected a man who was heading towards Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (the Prophet's Mosque) as he passed through a visitors' parking lot," the interior ministry said in a statement.

"As they tried to stop him, he blew himself up with an explosive belt causing his death, and the death of four security personnel," said the statement. Five others were also injured.

Undeterred worshippers continued to pray, Saudi television showed, as a plume of black smoke rose near the mosque.

Karte Saudi Arabien Medina Englisch

An attack on Islam

Al-Qaeda and the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) have regularly carried out attacks in the conservative Kingdom, which is considered heretical and corrupt by the global jihadist movements. IS has vowed to up the number of attacks during Ramadan, which officially ends on Wednesday with the start of the three day Eid al-Fitr (breaking the fast holiday).

Saudi journalist Khalid Al Maenna told DW News that groups like IS were trying to sow chaos and confusion in the Kingdom. He said an attack on one of Islam's three most holy sites was an affront to all Muslims.

"To touch the Prophet's mosque is very upsetting to any Muslim," Al Maenna said, adding the attack showed the extremists were weak.

At the same time as the evening attack in Medina, in the east of the country a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque in the Shiite-populated city of Qatif on the Gulf coast.

There were conflicting reports about causalities. The Saudi interior ministry said they were investigating the remains of three bodies, indicating there may have been more than one suicide bomber.

Mohammed al-Nimr, a resident of Qatif and brother of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed in January on charges of inciting anti-government protests, told the Associated Press that there were no casualties.

Al-Nimr's execution caused a diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, whose foreign minister Javad Zarif condemned the attack in Medina.

The two evening mosque attacks were preceded by an early Monday morning suicide blast near a mosque and the US consulate in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

Two security officers were wounded after they approached a suspicious looking man who blew himself up. The Saudi interior ministry said the bomber was a 35-year-old private driver from Pakistan who had been living in Jeddah for 12 years with his wife and her parents.

The German Embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh condemned all of the attacks.

The coordinated attacks across the Kingdom come after IS carried out three high profile attacks in Turkey, Iraq and Bangladesh over the past week that killed a total of more than 200 people.

Turkey's foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu said his country would continue to cooperate with Saudi Arabia against terrorism.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been close regional partners, especially in Syria, where alongside Qatar and the United States they have backed Syria rebels groups in a bid to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Saudi and Turkish backing of Islamist rebel groups - and, in the case of Turkey, turning a blind eye until last year to a stream of weapons and fighters entering Syria from its territory - have opened both countries to accusations of following policies that have help fuel the rise of "IS" and other extremist groups.

Both countries deny the accusations and participate in the US-led coalitions against IS.

cw/jr (AFP, dpa)