A suicide bombing that killed four security force members and wounded five others took place in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Medina near the Prophet’s Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, marking the third attack in the kingdom amid Ramadan violence.
The attack in Medina followed a suicide bombing near the U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia’s city of Jeddah that injured two security officers and two other suicide blasts targeting a Shiite mosque in the city Qatif. Only the suicide bomber was killed in Qatif.
According to the Saudi Interior Ministry, the attack in Medina took place outside the sprawling mosque grounds where the Prophet Muhammad is buried. The mosque is visited by millions of Muslims every year as part of their pilgrimage to Mecca. It is also visited by pilgrims from around the world during the final days of the fasting month of Ramadan. Medina is considered the holiest city in Islam after Mecca.
“The Prophet Muhammad’s mosque was packed Monday evening with worshipers during the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in the kingdom on Tuesday. Local media say the attacker was intending to strike the mosque when it was crowded with thousands of worshipers gathered for the sunset prayer,” reports the Times of Israel.
Al Arabiya adds, “The attack near the Prophet’s Mosque took place during Maghreb prayers, the time when Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.” Medina visitors have reportedly been undeterred by the attack.
Two other suicide bombings also rocked the eastern city of Qatif, targeting a Shiite mosque on Monday evening after a suicide attack earlier in the day in Jeddah,” notes Al Arabiya.
“About the same time as the Medina blast, two other explosions struck near a mosque in the eastern city of Qatif on the Gulf coast,” adds Al Jazeera. “Witnesses said a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Shia mosque without injuring anyone else. They reported seeing body parts lying on the ground in the city’s business district.”
Two security officers were reportedly wounded as a suicide bomber blew himself up near the U.S. consulate in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah early Monday morning.
“The fact that an attack happened in Medina at such a place is likely to leave Muslims around the world aghast,” reports BBC, adding, “Suspicion is likely to fall on so-called Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL].”
The assault on one of Islam’s holiest sites has drawn the ire of many Muslims and even jihadist groups, including the Afghan Taliban, which described it as “an act of enmity and hatred towards Islamic rituals.”
Condemnation from Taliban jihadists “is not surprising. Taliban leaders and financiers have long raised funds inside Saudi Arabia to support their jihad in Afghanistan,” reports The Long War Journal. “Additionally, the attack may have been executed by the Islamic State, the Taliban’s only jihadist rival in Afghanistan.”
Similarly to last year, ISIS issued a call to arms during the 2016 holy Muslim month of Ramadan, urging Muslims to attack wherever they can. There has been a spate of violent attacks linked to ISIS following the jihadist group’s Ramadan call to violence, particularly in Muslim-majority countries.
Martyrdom and jihad are highly encouraged by the likes of ISIS and al-Qaeda during Ramadan.
In explaining how jihadist groups step up attacks during Ramadan, BBC notes:
Ramadan is traditionally viewed as the most holy and spiritual month in the Islamic calendar, a time of penance and temperance. Mosques are consequently fuller than usual, typically packed with worshipers seeking divine mercy and blessings.
Juxtaposed alongside that ascetic puritanism is the view of radicals who regard Ramadan as a month of conquest and plunder. They believe it is an opportune moment to double down on their millenarian war against civilization and therefore launch more attacks than normal.