5 Jul 2016

Saudi Arabia hit by suicide bombings

6:46 am on 5 July 2016

Suicide bombers have struck three cities across Saudi Arabia in an apparently coordinated campaign of attacks.

Explosions were set off in the city of Medina - close to the Prophet's Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites - the eastern city of Qatif and near the US consulate in Jeddah.

Saudi police stand guard at the site of a suicide attack near the US consulate in Jeddah.

Saudi police stand guard at the site of a suicide attack near the US consulate in Jeddah. Photo: AFP / 123RF

The attacks follow days of mass killings claimed by Islamic State in Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh. All seem to have been timed to coincide with the approach of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that celebrates the end of the fast.

At least three people were killed in the blast outside the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, including a suicide bomber and two security officers, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television reported.

The bomber detonated his device as the security officers were breaking their day-long fast for Ramadan.

Video footage showed a large blaze among parked cars with a sound of sirens in the background. A picture sent to Reuters showed a burnt and bleeding man lying on a stretcher in a hospital.

Other pictures circulating on social media showed dark smoke billowing from flames near the Mosque of the Prophet.

In Qatif, an eastern city home to many members of the Shi'ite minority, at least one and possibly two explosions struck near a Shi'ite mosque. Witness reports indicated a bomber may have died.

A resident of the city told Reuters there were believed to be no casualties there apart from the attacker, as worshippers had already gone home to break their fasts. Civil defence forces were cleaning up the area and police were investigating, the resident said.

Hours earlier a suicide bomber was killed and two people were wounded in a blast near the US consulate in the kingdom's second city Jeddah.

The Jeddah blast was the first bombing in years to attempt to target foreigners in the kingdom. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Islamic State has carried out a series of bombing and shooting attacks in Saudi Arabia since mid-2014 that have killed scores of people, mostly members of the Shi'ite Muslim minority and security services.

Police and groups of local volunteers increased security near mosques in Qatif after suicide bombings hit mosques in Shi'ite areas last year, killing dozens. Another suicide blast at a mosque used by security forces also killed 15 a year ago.

- Reuters / BBC

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