Islamic State claimed responsibility on Thursday for an attack on a non-Muslim cemetery in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah which wounded several people, although it did not provide any evidence to back up its claim.
In a statement issued through its official channel on Telegram, the group said that its “soldiers” had managed to hide a homemade bomb in the cemetery on Wednesday that then exploded after several “consuls of crusading countries” gathered there.
The explosion, which occurred during a World War One remembrance ceremony involving foreign embassies, was the second security incident to take place in Jeddah in the last couple of weeks, and the first attack with explosives in years to attempt to hit foreigners in the conservative kingdom.
In a second statement, the Islamic State said they were primarily targeting the French consul general, who attended the ceremony, over what it said was France’s insistence on publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.
France’s government has defended the right to publish the cartoons, which are considered blasphemous by Muslims.
On Oct. 18, an Islamic State spokesman called on the militant group’s supporters to target Westerners, oil pipelines and economic infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier on Thursday, unidentified assailants sprayed the Saudi embassy in the Netherlands with gunfire before dawn. No one was hurt in the incident.
Late last month, a knife-wielding Saudi man was arrested after attacking and wounding a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah.
That incident followed the beheading near Paris of a French teacher by a man of Chechen origin who had said he wanted to punish the teacher for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet during a civics lesson.
French President Emmanuel Macron called the teacher, Samuel Paty, a hero, and he pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, saying it was threatening to take over some Muslim communities in France.
Saudi Arabia will strike those who threaten the kingdom’s security and stability with an “iron fist”, the crown prince said on Thursday, one day after an attack on a Remembrance Day ceremony injured two in the kingdom.
Islamic State claimed Wednesday’s attack on a non-Muslim cemetery in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah during a World War One remembrance ceremony involving French and other embassies. The group provided no evidence for the claim.
“We will continue to hit with an iron fist against anyone who thinks of threatening our security and stability,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, said in a speech carried by Saudi state news agency SPA.
Wednesday’s attack occurred two weeks after a Saudi man wounded a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah with what has been described as a “sharp tool” and after recent Islamist militant attacks in France and Austria.
Prince Mohammed said Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, is committed to confronting extremism, and rejects and condemns all terrorist acts.
He said actual terror attacks in the kingdom, the world’s top oil exporter and a key U.S. ally, had “fallen to near zero” following a restructuring of the interior ministry and reforming of the security sector that began in mid-2017.
Prince Mohammed became heir to the throne following a palace coup in 2017 that ousted the then-crown prince.
The prince also said the kingdom would continue to combat corruption after the state recovered 247 billion riyals ($65.86 billion) in settlements in addition to assets worth tens of billions of riyals in the past three years. [L1N2HY2L6]
In January 2019 Saudi Arabia ended a sweeping anti-corruption campaign in which many members of the kingdom’s economic and political elite were detained.
Critics saw the crackdown as a power grab by the crown prince, who has moved to sideline any rivals to his eventual succession to the throne. Prince Mohammed has defended the campaign as “shock therapy” as he tries to overhaul the economy.
($1 = 3.7504 riyals)