RIYADH, July 5: Three suicide bombings have struck across Saudi Arabia in a single day, including a shocking attack at Islam’s second holiest site, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, where four security guards were killed. 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 responsibility, 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 Madinah came during sunset prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque — where Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 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 Madinah caused widespread outrage. Saudi Arabia will strike with an “iron hand” against people who target the country’s youth, said King Salman. “The biggest challenge facing the Islamic nation is to preserve real wealth and hope for the future of the young who face the risk of extremism and malicious calls pushing them to abnormal behaviors and practices … “ Salman said in a speech marking the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. “We will strike with an iron fist those who target the minds and thoughts and attitudes of our dear youth,” Salman said.
Religious and political leaders across the Middle East denounced the attack near the Prophet’s Mosque that left four dead and came as Muslims prepare for the feast this week marking the end of the Holy Month Ramadan. There were no claims of responsiblity for Monday’s bombings in Madinah, Jeddah and the eastern city of Qatif, but the Islamic State group had urged its supporters to carry out attacks during Ramadan.
The jihadist group has claimed or been blamed for a wave of shootings and bombings during the holy month this year, including in Orlando, Bangladesh, Istanbul and Baghdad. The targeting of Madinah caused widespread outrage, both in Saudi Arabia and across the Muslim world. The head of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, the kingdom’s main government advisory body, called it an “unprecedented” incident. “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. 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.” Saudi Arabia’s supreme council of clerics said the blasts “prove that those renegades … have violated everything that is sacred.” The attack drew condemnation across Islam’s religious divide, with Shiite power Iran calling for Muslim unity after the attacks in its Sunni-dominated regional rival. “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. Lebanon-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah — which Saudi Arabia accuses of supporting “terrorist acts” across the region — also denounced the Madinah attack as “a new sign of the terrorists’ contempt for all that Muslims consider sacred.”
The governments of Turkey and Lebanon joined in the condemnation, while Iraq said the attacks amounted to “heinous crimes”. Middle East expert Madhawi Al- Rasheed said the attack in Madinah appeared aimed at humiliating the Saudi government, the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites. “It’s an attempt to actually embarrass the Saudi government because it boasts of protecting the pilgrims and the holy places,” said Rasheed, a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
There also seemed to be an “organised effort by the perpetrators to coordinate their work,” potentially signalling a worsening security situation in Saudi, she said. At the same time as the Madinah attack, another suicide bombing occurred near a Shiite mosque across the country in the Shiite-populated Gulf city of Qatif. The Saudi interior ministry said “the body parts of three people were found” at the site but had not yet been identifi ed. Nasima al-Sada, a Qatif resident, called the attackers crazy and said: “I don’t know where they get this idea.” Monday’s first attack happened in the western Saudi city of Jeddah, where two police offi cers were wounded in a suicide bombing near the US consulate in the early hours.
The interior ministry said a Pakistani resident, Abdullah Qalzar Khan, 35, carried out the Jeddah attack. He had been living with his wife and her parents in the city for 12 years. The US embassy in Riyadh reported no casualties among consulate staff during the attack, which coincided with the US July 4 Independence Day holiday.
Since late 2014 a series of bombings and shootings claimed by IS in Saudi Arabia has targeted minority Shiites as well as members of the security forces, killing dozens of people. Most of the attacks have been staged in Eastern Province, home to the majority of Shiites in the Sunni-dominated Gulf state. IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for attacks on Saudi Arabia, which is taking part in the US-led coalition bombing the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
The group also considers Shiites to be heretics. IS spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani had in late May urged the group’s supporters to carry out attacks during Ramadan. His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has telephoned Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz exploof Saudi Arabia, expressing strong condemnation of the two terrorist bombing attacks that took place in the Kingdom on Tuesday.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad, in the telephone contact with the Saudi Monarch, denounced in strongest terms the two terrorist explosions; one targeted a security office near Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Holy Mosque in Madinah and the other in Al-Qatif in eastern sector of the country, killing the innocent, terrorizing the citizens and undermining the Kingdom’s security.
Such satanic acts where the culprits desecrated sanctity of the houses of Allah, the Holy Month of Ramadan and wasted lives of the innocent, contradict “Our religion Islam and all other heavenly laws and covenants and human race values,” His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad stated during his contact with King Salman.
Parliament Speaker Marzouq Al- Ghanim condemned the recent suicide attacks in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia on Monday witnessed three suicide bombings – security headquarters of the Prophet’s (PBUH) Mosque in Medina, the American consulate in Jeddah and a mosque in Qatif.
In a cable to Saudi Shura Council Chairman Abdullah Bin Mohammad bin Ibrahim, Al-Ghanim stressed, “We stand with you in defeating terrorism and the deviant group. Whatever happens to the Kingdom’s security affects all of us.”
He said all GCC States are in one boat in combating terrorism that threatens the security of the region and the entire world. He pointed out the security threats are increasing so the region needs the concerted efforts of everyone to address the problem.
He added terrorism has no religion or doctrine as it only represents killing and destruction which are rejected by all divine religions, stressing that Kuwait’s position in the fight against terrorism is clear and it is keen on supporting the efforts of the international community in this regard.
Commenting on the same issue, Deputy Speaker Mubarak Al-Khreinej asserted the terrorist attacks were aimed at spread confusion and instability in the region as well as sow terror among innocent Muslims in their homes, especially in Saudi Arabia which has been successful in fighting against this deviant ideology. He added Saudi Arabia will quickly rise above these bombings, thanks to Allah and the good leadership and management in the Kingdom, hoping its people will rally behind their leader.
He then expressed deep condolences to the leadership and the people of Saudi Arabia, reaffirming Kuwait’s support and solidarity with the Kingdom in its fight against terrorism.
Moreover, Deputy Speaker of the Arab Parliament Muhammad Al-Jabri also denounced the bombings, stressing that these criminal acts contravene the teachings of Islam and the supreme principles established by Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). Al-Jabri urged the Muslim scholars to combat this terrorist ideology and save the people from the wave of violence and hatred against the Islamic world by extremists trying to distort the religion.
He expressed condolences to the Custodian of the Holy Mosques and people of Saudi Arabia, wishing for the speedy recovery of the injured and safety for all the people living in this country.
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff and Agencies