Terror attacks rock Saudi Arabia; 4 killed


Saudi Arabia on Tuesday identified the suicide bomber who struck outside one of Islam’s holiest sites the day before as a Pakistani resident of the kingdom who arrived 12 years ago to work as a driver.

The suicide bombing Monday outside the sprawling mosque grounds where the Prophet Muhammad is buried in the western city of Medina killed four Saudi security troops and wounded five.

Millions of Muslims from around the world visit the mosque every year as part of their pilgrimage to Mecca.

The governor of Mecca, Prince Faisal bin Salman, who is a son of King Salman, was shown on state television visiting security officers wounded in the blast and the site of the explosion, within hours of the blast.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the Medina attack or two other attacks in the kingdom on the same day one near the U.S. Consulate in Jiddah and the other at a Shiite mosque in the east of the country.

The nature of the attacks and their apparently coordinated timing suggested the Islamic State group could be to blame.

An Interior Ministry statement issued on Tuesday identified the man as 34-year-old Abdullah Qalzar Khan. It said he lived in the nearby Red Sea port city of Jiddah with “his wife and her parents.” The statement didn’t elaborate. There was no immediate comment from Islamabad. There are around 9 million foreigners living in Saudi Arabia, which has a total population of 30 million. Among all foreigners living in the kingdom, Pakistanis represent one of the largest groups.

The Saudi ministry said the attacker set off the bomb in a parking lot after security officers raised suspicions about him.

Several cars caught fire and thick plumes of black smoke were seen rising from the site of the explosion as thousands of worshippers crowded the streets around the mosque.

Worshippers expressed shock that such a prominent holy site could be targeted.

“That’s not an act that represents Islam,” said Altayeb Osama, a 25-year old Sudanese visitor to Medina and resident of Abu Dhabi who heard two large booms about a minute apart as he was heading toward the mosque for sunset prayers Monday.

“People never imagined that this could happen here.”

The Prophet Muhammad’s mosque was packed on Monday evening with worshippers during the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in the kingdom on Tuesday.

Local media say the attacker was intending to strike the mosque when it was crowded with thousands of worshippers gathered for the sunset prayer.

Qari Ziyaad Patel, 36, from Johannesburg, South Africa, was at the mosque when he heard a blast just as people were breaking their fast with dates. Many at first thought it was the sound of traditional, celebratory cannon fire, he said.

“I actually felt the ground shake,” he said. “The vibrations were very strong. … It sounded like a building imploded.”

State-run news channel al-Ekhbariya aired live video of the mosque filled with worshippers praying hours after the explosion.

The ruling Al Saud family derives enormous prestige and legitimacy from being the caretakers of the hajj pilgrimage and Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina. The attack may have been an attempt to undermine the Saudi monarchy’s claim of guardianship.AP
The nature of the attacks and their apparently coordinated timing suggested the Islamic State group could be to blame.

80 total views, 1 views today