Saturday, May 23, 2015
Suicide bomber kills 21 in Shi'ite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia
Chaos in the Imam Ali mosque in Qadeeh after the attack. (Reuters)
A suicide bomber killed 21 worshippers on Friday in a packed Shi'ite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia, residents and the health minister said, the first attack in the kingdom to be claimed by Islamic State militants.
It was one of the deadliest assaults in recent years in this part of Saudi Arabia. More than 150 people were praying when the huge explosion ripped through the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh, witnesses said. A video posted online showed a hall filled with smoke and dust, with bloodied people moaning with pain as they lay on the floor littered with concrete and glass. More than 90 people were wounded, the Saudi health minister told state television.
Islamic State said in a statement that one of its suicide bombers, identified as Abu 'Ammar al-Najdi, carried out the attack using an explosives-laden belt that killed or wounded 250 people, U.S.-based monitoring group SITE said on its Twitter account. It said it would not rest until Shi'ites, which the group views as heretics, were driven from the Arabian peninsula.
Friday's bombing was the first attack targeting minority Shi'ites since November, when gunmen opened fire during a religious celebration in al-Ahsa, also in the east where most of the group live in predominantly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Interior Ministry described the attack as an act of terrorism and said it was carried out by "agents of sedition trying to target the kingdom's national fabric", according to a statement carried by state news agency SPA.
In Beirut, Lebanon's Hezbollah, an ally of Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, condemned the attack but said authorities in the kingdom itself bore responsibility.
"Hezbollah holds the Saudi authorities fully responsible for this ugly crime, for its embrace and sponsorship for these criminal murderers ... to carry out similar crimes in other Arab and Muslim countries," the Shi'ite group said in a statement.
The statement appeared to echo Iranian accusations that Saudi Arabia sponsors ultra-orthodox Sunni militant groups in the region, an allegation usually taken to refer to groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda. Riyadh denies the allegations.
In Yemen, a bomb at a Houthi mosque in the capital Sanaa on Friday was also claimed by Islamic State.