Saudi security forces foil plans for attack in Makkah

Published June 25, 2017
THIS picture released by a Saudi Arabian news agency shows security personnel inspecting a site where a bomber blew himself up.—Reuters
THIS picture released by a Saudi Arabian news agency shows security personnel inspecting a site where a bomber blew himself up.—Reuters

RIYADH: A suicide bomber blew himself up near the Grand Mosque in Makkah as police disrupted a plot to target the holiest site in Islam just as Ramazan ends, Saudi Arabia’s security forces said on Saturday.

The Interior Ministry said it launched a raid around Jeddah, as well as two areas in Makkah itself, including the Ajyad Al-Masafi neighbourhood, located near the Grand Mosque.

There police engaged in a shootout at a three-storey house with a suicide bomber, who blew himself up and caused the building to collapse.

Man blows himself up after raid; five others, including woman, arrested

The bomber was killed, while the blast wounded six foreigners and five members of security forces, according to the ministry’s statement. Five others were arrested, including a woman, it said.

Saudi state television aired footage after the raid on Friday near the Grand Mosque, showing police and rescue personnel running through the neighbourhood’s narrow streets. The blast demolished the building, its walls crushing a parked car. Nearby structures appeared to be peppered with shrapnel and bullet holes.

The Interior Ministry said the thwarted “terrorist plan” would have violated “all sanctities by targeting the security of the Grand Mosque, the holiest place on Earth”.

“They obeyed their evil and corrupt self-serving schemes managed from abroad whose aim is to destabilise the security and stability of this blessed country,” it said.

The ministry did not name the group involved in the attack. The ultraconservative Sunni kingdom battled an Al Qaeda insurgency for years and more recently has faced attacks from a local branch of the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

Neither group immediately claimed involvement, though IS sympathisers online have urged more attacks as an offensive in Iraq slowly squeezes the extremists out of Mosul and their de facto capital of Raqa in Syria comes under daily bombing from a US-led coalition.

The disrupted plot comes at a sensitive time in Saudi Arabia. King Salman earlier this week short-circuited the kingdom’s succession by designating his son, Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, first in line to the throne.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have cut diplomatic ties to neighbouring Qatar and are trying to isolate the energy-rich country over its alleged support of militants and ties to Iran. Qatar has long denied those allegations.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2017

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