Militant Islamic State group claims responsibility for attack on World War I commemoration ceremony in Jeddah

Published November 12, 2020
Saudi police close a street leading to a non-Muslim cemetery in the Saudi city of Jeddah where a bomb struck a World War I commemoration attended by European diplomats on November 11, 2020 leaving several people wounded. — AFP
Saudi police close a street leading to a non-Muslim cemetery in the Saudi city of Jeddah where a bomb struck a World War I commemoration attended by European diplomats on November 11, 2020 leaving several people wounded. — AFP

The militant Islamic State group said on Thursday that it carried out a bombing against a gathering of diplomats in Saudi Arabia, saying it was to protest French cartoons of Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Wednesday's attack struck a World War I commemoration at a non-Muslim cemetery in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, wounding at least two people.

It came less than a month after a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah was wounded by a knife-wielding Saudi, amid Muslims' fury over satirical cartoons of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

A statement by IS's propaganda arm, Amaq, said the attack “primarily targeted the French consul over his country's insistence on publishing the cartoons insulting to the Prophet of God”.

An earlier statement by the terrorist group on its Telegram channel said IS fighters had “planted an explosive device in [...] the cemetery in the city of Jeddah yesterday (Wednesday)”.

Diplomats from France, Greece, Italy, Britain and the United States attended the Armistice Day commemoration ceremony in Jeddah, their embassies said in a statement after the bombing.

They condemned the attack as “cowardly”.

A Greek policeman residing in Saudi Arabia was wounded, a Greek diplomatic source said, and a British citizen was also believed to have been hurt.

A Saudi policeman suffered minor injuries, state-owned Al-Ekhbariya television added, citing the governor of Makkah region, where Jeddah is located.

Teacher's murder

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons were shown by French history teacher Samuel Paty to pupils in a class on free speech, leading to his beheading outside Paris on October 16.

His murder followed an online campaign by parents angry over his choice of lesson material. Since Paty's killing, French officials — backed by many citizens — have re-asserted the right to display the sketches, and the images have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with the killed teacher.

That has prompted an outpouring of anger in parts of the Muslim world, with some governments accusing French leader Emmanuel Macron of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda. Macron's stance angered many Muslims, prompting huge protests in several countries at which portraits of France's president were burnt, and a campaign to boycott French products.

But Macron has since tried to assuage Muslim anger.

Last week French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Egypt where he met the head of Al-Azhar, considered the foremost religious institution for Sunni Muslims, to try to defuse the furor.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia — home to Islam's holiest sites — has criticised the cartoons, saying it rejected “any attempt to link Islam and terrorism”.

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