RIYADH, July 4, (Agencies): A foreign suicide bomber blew himself up near the American consulate in Saudi Arabia’s western city of Jeddah in the early hours of US Independence Day on Monday. Two security officers were slightly wounded, the interior ministry said, as the American embassy in Riyadh reported no injuries among US consulate staff. General Mansour al-Turki, the interior ministry spokesman, told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television that the bomber was not Saudi but a “resident foreigner”.
Millions of foreigners, many from Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and Asia, work in the kingdom. The ministry did not specify if the bomber had intended to target the consulate, but an investigation was now under way.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable to King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, expressing Kuwait’s strongest condemnation to the “terror act” that took place at one of Jeddah’s hospitals’ parking lot. His Highness the Amir voiced out his support to all security measures that will be carried out by the Saudi Government to combat terror acts. He reiterated Kuwait’s refusing stance to all manifestations of terrorism everywhere.
Meanwhile, His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al- Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent cables of condolences to the Saudi King over the victims of the blast.
The Jeddah incident came during a wave of attacks claimed by the Islamic State group or blamed on the jihadists, including a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Sunday that killed more than 200 people and recent attacks in Bangladesh and at Istanbul airport. It happened before the end this week of the Holy Month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.
The interior ministry said security personnel became suspicious of the man near the parking lot of a hospital which is across from the US diplomatic mission. When they moved in to investigate at around 2:15 am (2315 GMT Sunday) the man “blew himself up with a suicide belt inside the hospital parking lot,” the ministry said.
A picture carried by the Sabq online newspaper, which is close to authorities, showed a large body part lying on the ground between a taxi and the open door of another car that was peppered with holes. In a security notice on its website, the American embassy noted media reports of “a suspected suicide attack near the US consulate in Jeddah” early on the morning of July 4. “The US embassy and consulate remain in contact with the Saudi authorities as they investigate the incident,” it added, urging Americans to “take extra precautions when travelling throughout the country”. In March last year the US embassy closed its main office, as well as consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran, for a few days over unspecified “security concerns”.
The US consulate in Jeddah was targeted in December 2004 when gunmen opened fire and lobbed explosives at the compound, killing five people, in an attack blamed on al-Qaeda. It was not immediately clear who was behind Monday’s incident, but since late 2014 Saudi security officers and minority Shiites have been hit by deadly violence claimed by IS. Branding its rulers “apostate tyrants”, 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.
State-linked Saudi news websites reported an explosion Monday near one of Islam’s holiest sites in the city of Madinah, as two suicide bombers struck in different cities without killing anyone. Sabq news site reported the explosion, and other sites showed images of what appeared to be a fi re outside one of the buildings overlooking the Prophet’s Mosque.
It was not immediately clear if anyone was killed or wounded in the blast. The sprawling mosque where the Prophet Muhammad is buried is visited by millions of Muslims from around the world each year during pilgrimages to Makkah.
The area would have been packed with pilgrims for prayer during the final days of the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, which ends this week. The Interior Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.
Also Monday evening, a suicide bomber and a car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia, according to a resident there, several hours after another suicide bomber carried out an attack near the US Consulate in the western city of Jiddah.
The possibility of coordinated, multiple attacks across different cities in Saudi Arabia on the same day underscores the threat the kingdom faces from extremists who view the Western-allied Saudi monarchy as heretics and enemies of Islam.
Saudi Arabia is part of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The attack in the eastern region of Qatif did not appear to cause any injuries, said resident Mohammed al-Nimr, whose brother is Nimr-al-Nimr, a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric executed in January.
He told The Associated Press the bomber detonated his suicide vest when most residents of the neighborhood were at home breaking the daily Ramadan fast. Qatif is heavily populated by Shiites, who are a minority in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. Al-Nimr said that near the body of a suicide bomber was a car bomb that also went off around the same time.