Mosque blast kills 13 in southern Saudi city

Suicide bomber likely behind attack on building used by police; nine others injured

RIYADH • An explosion probably triggered by a suicide bomber ripped through a mosque used by Saudi police yesterday, killing at least 13 people in the southern city of Abha, the interior ministry said.

A spokesman for the ministry, in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, said nine other people were wounded, three of them in serious condition.

He identified three of those killed as "workers" in a mosque used by members of a Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) domestic security unit in Abha, in the southern province of Asir.

"The terrorist attack struck worshippers during prayer. Ten policemen and three workers were killed while nine were wounded, three seriously," the spokesman said. He said the attack was likely carried out by a suicide bomber, saying that "body parts found at the scene" indicated the use of explosive vests.

State television El-Ikhbariya, which broke the news earlier, gave a death toll of 17.

ASSAULT DURING WORSHIP

The terrorist attack struck worshippers during prayer.

Ten policemen and three workers were killed while nine were wounded, three seriously.

AN INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESMAN

It was too early to say who may have carried out the attack, an interior ministry spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The bombing was the most serious in recent months against Saudi security forces, who have been targeted in attacks blamed on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

In the middle of last month, a car bomb exploded at a security checkpoint near a prison in the capital Riyadh. It killed the 19-year-old driver and wounded two policemen, the interior ministry said.

In the south-western city of Taif, a policeman was gunned down on July 3 during a raid in which three people were arrested and flags of ISIS found, police said earlier. On successive Fridays in May, suicide bombings at mosques of the minority Shi'ite community in Eastern Province killed a total of 25 people.

An ISIS-affiliated group calling itself Najd Province - which takes its name from the region around Riyadh - claimed those attacks as well as another suicide bombing that killed 26 people at a Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait in June.

The ISIS group considers Shi'ites to be heretics. It has called on supporters to carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia, home of Islam's holiest places, from where it wants to expel Shi'ites.

Last month, Saudi Arabia said it has arrested 431 people suspected of belonging to ISIS cells and thwarted attacks on mosques, security forces and a diplomatic mission. Their alleged offences ranged from smuggling explosives, to surveying potential attack sites, providing transport and material support to bombers, smuggling in explosives from abroad and manufacturing suicide vests.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is also leading an Arab coalition targeting Iran-backed Shi'ite rebels in neighbouring Yemen, not far from Abha. The rebels have carried out a number of attacks against military targets in Saudi Arabia.

The coalition is supporting forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, currently in exile in Riyadh, to stop the advance of the rebels. Military sources said yesterday that Saudi Arabia has sent new military equipment, including tanks, into Yemen.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2015, with the headline 'Mosque blast kills 13 in southern Saudi city'. Print Edition | Subscribe