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Explosion Near Shiite Mosque Kills 4 in Eastern Saudi Arabia

The site of an explosion near a Shiite mosque in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, on Friday.
By BEN HUBBARD
May 29, 2015

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A suicide bomber dressed in women’s clothing detonated his explosive belt near the entrance to a Shiite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia on Friday, killing three other people, according to Saudi state media. The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility, as it did just a week ago for a similar attack in the same region.

News reports said the bomber, who was dressed in the ample black abaya worn by Saudi women, blew himself up as security officers were approaching him. In a statement posted on Twitter, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had been carried out by “a soldier of the caliphate” named Abu Jandal al-Jazrawi, a nom de guerre.

The attack occurred near Al Anoud mosque, in the eastern city of Dammam, where many Shiites live.

The two attacks, both targeting Shiite mosques during the largest prayer gathering of the week, have raised fears that the sectarian passions fueling conflicts across the Middle East pose an increasing domestic threat to the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni monarchy with a Shiite minority living mostly in the country’s oil-rich east, has been accused of escalating sectarian bombast against Shiites to rally support for its air offensive in neighboring Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels.

Saudi leaders deny that sectarianism has played a role in their decision to form a coalition of nations to bomb the Houthis, who have seized much of Yemen and forced the internationally recognized president into exile. But the country’s powerful clerical establishment considers Shiite Islam a distortion of the Muslim faith, and Saudi Shiites are often accused of being loyal to the kingdom’s regional rival, Iran.

For its part, the Islamic State considers both Shiites and the Saudi royal family apostates who should be killed.

Friday’s attack came exactly a week after a suicide bomber blew himself up inside another Shiite mosque in Al Qudaih, near Qatif, the regional center of the Eastern Province, killing 21 people. The Islamic State, which controls territory in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility. Saudi officials said that attacker was a Saudi citizen who had taken direction from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Saudi officials have blamed the Islamic State for several other, mostly small-scale attacks in recent months, though it has taken responsibility for only some of them.

The Saudi government has condemned the attacks as terrorism, and last week, the Saudi interior minister and crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, flew to the Eastern Province to meet with victims of the first attack and their families.But in one exchange broadcast on state television and later posted on YouTube, a Saudi man pointed out that a private Saudi television station, Wesal TV, airs the anti-Shiite views of hard-line clerics.

“If the government does not do its part, permit me, your highness, it is a partner in this crime,” he said.

Prince Mohammed responded: “The state will remain the state and will ensure security, no matter who violates it. So let us all be one hand with the state.”

“We are with the state,” the man replied.

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(via NY Times)