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Friday, May 22, 2015

Suicide bomber kills 21 at Saudi Shi'ite mosque, Islamic State claims attack

Top News Saudi names suspects in mosque bombings, offers $1 million bounty Wed, Jun 03 10:40 AM EDT image 1 of 2 DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia offered a cash reward of 5 million riyals ($1.3 million) for information leading to the arrest of sixteen people it said were involved in two deadly mosque bombings claimed by Islamic State, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday. The ministry also offered a 7 million riyal reward for tips that would thwart any future attacks, according to a statement published by state news agency SPA. "Anyone dealing with the wanted men will be held accountable," the ministry warned. A suicide bomber disguised as a woman blew himself up on Friday outside a Shi'ite Muslim mosque in the city of Dammam in eastern Saudi Arabia, killing himself and four other people. The interior ministry identified the bomber as a Saudi citizen, 20-year old Khalid al-Wahbi al-Shemmari. A week earlier, another suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shi'ite mosque in the nearby village of al-Qadeeh, killing 22 people. The ministry published a list of sixteen men and their photographs on state TV, saying they were involved in the two attacks. Islamic State, a hardline Sunni militant group based in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for both attacks. The group has said it wants to drive out all Shi'ites from the Arabian Peninsula and urged young men in the kingdom to join its cause. The bombings in Saudi Arabia come as wars with sectarian overtones ravage Iraq, Syria and Yemen -- stoking tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites throughout the region. Some clerics in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and mainstay of its Sunni denomination, are deeply hostile toward Shi'ites, whom they regard as apostates. The Kingdom is also part of an international coalition bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, and the organization has threatened to launch revenge attacks. Saudi and Gulf governments fear that the wars in the region, in which their Sunni allies are fighting groups close to Shi'ite archrival Iran, will radicalize their citizens and undermine their security. (Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by Noah Browning and Editing by Toby Chopra) Saudi king says heartbroken by mosque attack, promises punishment Sun, May 24 10:15 AM EDT image DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Salman said on Sunday he was heartbroken over a suicide bombing that killed 21 people at a Shi'ite mosque in the kingdom, state news agency SPA reported, a conciliatory statement as sectarian strife intensifies in the region. Salman said anyone linked to the attack, claimed by the Islamist militant group Islamic State, or who sympathized with it, would be brought to justice. "We were pained by the enormity of the crime of this terrorist aggression which contradicts Islamic and humanitarian values," the king said in a message to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also the interior minister. A Sunni Muslim militant blew himself up in the al-Qadeeh village mosque in Saudi Arabia's heavily Shi'ite east during Friday prayers, in one of the worst attacks in the kingdom in years. The Saudi Interior Ministry said there was evidence of a link between Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a militant cell in Saudi Arabia that had included the mosque bomber, identified as Saudi citizen Saleh bin Abdul Rahman Saleh Qashimi. An unidentified subordinate of Baghdadi communicated with five Saudi men, now in Saudi custody, belonging to the same cell as Qashimi, ministry spokesman Bassam al-Attiyeh said. "We're talking about a terrorist infrastructure, we're talking about a very broad organization that operates within the country," al-Attiyeh told reporters in the capital Riyadh. "This organization starts with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and under him the suspect whom we've mentioned, and one grade below him their combat and bombing wing ... under which is the killings and assassinations wing which undertook the al-Qadeeh incident." The bombing in Saudi Arabia has come as tensions between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims are on the increase in the region. Some clerics in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and mainstay of its Sunni denomination, are deeply hostile toward Shi'ites, whom they regard as apostates. Saudi Arabia is also part of an international coalition carrying out bombing strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, and Islamic State has threatened to launch revenge attacks. Saudi and Gulf governments fear that sectarian wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq where they and other Sunni Muslim allies are fighting groups close to Shi'ite archrival Iran will radicalize their citizens. (Reporting by Omar Fahmy; writing by Noah Browning and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Andrew Heavens) Fri, May 22 16:11 PM EDT image 1 of 5 By Sami Aboudi DUBAI (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 21 worshippers on Friday in a packed Shi'ite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia, residents and the health minister said, the first attack in the kingdom to be claimed by Islamic State militants. It was one of the deadliest assaults in recent years in the largest Gulf Arab country, where sectarian tensions have been frayed by nearly two months of Saudi-led air strikes on Shi'ite Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen. More than 150 people were praying when the huge explosion ripped through the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh, witnesses said. A video posted online showed a hall filled with smoke and dust, with bloodied people moaning with pain as they lay on the floor littered with concrete and glass. More than 90 people were wounded, the Saudi health minister told state television. "We were doing the first part of the prayers when we heard the blast," worshipper Kamal Jaafar Hassan told Reuters by phone from the scene. Islamic State said in a statement that one of its suicide bombers, identified as Abu 'Ammar al-Najdi, carried out the attack using an explosives-laden belt that killed or wounded 250 people, U.S.-based monitoring group SITE said on its Twitter account. It said it would not rest until Shi'ites, which the group views as heretics, were driven from the Arabian peninsula. Saudi officials have said the group is trying hard to attack the kingdom, which as the world's top oil exporter, birthplace of Islam and champion of conservative Sunni doctrine, represents an important ally for Western countries battling Islamic State and a symbolic target for the militant group itself. In November the Sunni group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called for attacks against the Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia, which has declared Islamic State a terrorist organization, joined international air strikes against it, and mobilized top clergy to denounce it. Last week Baghdadi issued another speech laden with derogatory comments about the Saudi leadership and the country's Shi'ite minority. Friday's bombing was the first attack targeting minority Shi'ites since November, when gunmen opened fire during a religious celebration in al-Ahsa, also in the east where most of the group live in predominantly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia. SECTARIAN TENSIONS The Saudi Interior Ministry described the attack as an act of terrorism and said it was carried out by "agents of sedition trying to target the kingdom's national fabric", according to a statement carried by state news agency SPA. The agency quoted an Interior Ministry spokesman as saying the bomber detonated a suicide belt hidden under his clothes inside the mosque. "Security authorities will spare no effort in the pursuit of all those involved in this terrorist crime," the official said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA. A hospital official told Reuters by telephone that "around 20 people" were killed in the attack and more than 50 were being treated, some of them suffering from serious injuries. He said a number of other people had been treated and sent home. In April, Saudi Arabia said it was on high alert for a possible attacks on oil installations or shopping malls. In Beirut, Lebanon's Hezbollah, an ally of Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, condemned the attack but said authorities in the kingdom itself bore responsibility. "Hezbollah holds the Saudi authorities fully responsible for this ugly crime, for its embrace and sponsorship for these criminal murderers ... to carry out similar crimes in other Arab and Muslim countries," the Shi'ite group said in a statement. The statement appeared to echo Iranian accusations that Saudi Arabia sponsors ultra-orthodox Sunni militant groups in the region, an allegation usually taken to refer to groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda. Riyadh denies the allegations. In Yemen, a bomb at a Houthi mosque in the capital Sanaa on Friday was also claimed by Islamic State. (Reporting by Sami Aboudi, Amena Bakr in Doha, Reem Shamseddine in Khobar and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Sami Aboudi, William Maclean; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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