At least 21 people were reportedly killed after attacker detonates explosives during Friday prayers in Saudi Arabia’s Qatif province
RIYADH, (Saudi Arabia) — A suicide bomber killed at least 21 people during midday prayers on Friday at a Shia mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia, local news media reported
Witnesses reported a huge blast at the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh, in Qatif governorate during Friday prayers, where more than 150 people were praying.
A doctor at the hospital told media that about 70 injured, “some very critically”.
Television pictures of the Saudi bombing showed shattered glass and debris inside the mosque, where scores were said to have been praying.
A spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry said the bomber detonated a suicide belt inside the mosque, causing a number of people to be “martyred or wounded”.
“Security authorities will spare no effort in the pursuit of all those involved in this terrorist crime,” the official said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.
Saudi Interior Ministry officials said in interviews this week that they had seen an increase in violence by Sunni extremists, including three separate attacks near the capital, Riyadh, that killed a total of three police officers and injured two others.
Bombing to escalate sectarian conflict further after Saudi-led coalition operation in Yemen
The bombing is one of the first potential signs that the country’s intervention in the sectarian conflict in Yemen is escalating tensions at home as well.
Members of the Shiite minority, who make up about 15 percent of the population and live mainly in the oil-rich Eastern Province, have long complained of discrimination by Saudi Arabia’s Sunni majority and clerical establishment.
The attack could further harm relations between Sunnis and Shias in the Gulf region, where tensions have risen during weeks of military operations in Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition against Shia Houthi fighters seen as proxies of regional Shia power Iran.
Islamic State claims Shia mosque bombing
The Islamic State (IS) group says it was behind a suicide bombing on a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia. The claim was posted on Twitter with an image of the bomber. The posting on Twitter on Friday that purported to come from a Yemeni arm of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but it did not include details and its credibility was hard to assess.
The attack in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province is the first to be claimed by the Saudi branch of IS, which was formally established last November.