Saudi interior ministry says attack on Mecca's Grand Mosque foiled

Six foreign pilgrims were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up near the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Saudi security forces work at a scene after a suicide bomber blew himself up in Mecca, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2017.

At least six foreign pilgrims and five security personnel were hurt on Friday in Saudi Arabia when a suicide bomber targeting Islam's holiest site of Mecca blew himself up, the kingdom's Interior Ministry said.

In a statement read on state television, the ministry said that three cells had planned the attack on worshippers and security forces at the Grand Mosque as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan nears its end.

Earlier during the day, security forces had shot dead a wanted man at another suspected militant hideout in Mecca's Al Aseelah neighbourhood. 

In dawn raids on Mecca and the Red Sea city of Jeddah, officers arrested five suspects, including a woman, before surrounding the bomber's location around the Grand Mosque.

"Unfortunately he started shooting towards security personnel once he noticed their presence in the area, which led to an exchange of fire before he blew himself up," Turki said.

The blast partially collapsed the building where he had taken refuge, injuring the six pilgrims, Turki said. He added that four had already been released from hospital, and five security men were also slightly hurt.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the plot to attack the mosque, but since late 2014 Saudi Arabia has faced periodic bombings and shootings claimed by Daesh.

Support from Qatar and Iran

Both Qatar and Iraq voiced support for Saudi Arabia on Saturday, despite their severed ties.

The Qatari foreign ministry expressed "solidarity with the brotherly kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

The statement also "reiterated Qatar's firm stance rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of causes and motivations."

"Iran... as always expresses its readiness to assist and cooperate with other countries to confront these criminals, who deal death and ignorantly spread hate," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are locked in a battle for regional influence and have had no diplomatic relations since January last year.

Saudi Arabia and its allies severed all ties with Qatar earlier this month accusing it of supporting "terrorist groups" in the region, a charge Doha denies.

Source: 
AFP, Reuters