23 May 2015

IS claims responsibility for suicide attack

7:23 am on 23 May 2015

The Islamic State (IS) group says it was behind a suicide bombing on a Shi'ite mosque in Saudi Arabia that killed at least 10 people.

A Saudi man reacts following the blast at the mosque in Qatif on 22 May.

The attack - which has been claimed by IS - took place during Friday prayers. Photo: AFP

The attack in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province is the first to be claimed by the Saudi branch of IS, which was formally established last November.

The claim was posted on Twitter with an image of the bomber by an account that is a reliable source on the group.

IS has previously threatened to attack Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia.

Witnesses reported a huge blast at the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh, in Qatif governorate during Friday prayers.

A doctor at the hospital said at least 10 people had been killed and about 70 injured, "some very critically".

'Terrorist crime'

Television pictures of the bombing showed shattered glass and debris inside the mosque, where scores were said to have been praying.

A spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry said the bomber detonated a suicide belt inside the mosque, causing a number of people to be "martyred or wounded".

"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.

Man gather outside the mosque targeted with the deadly blast.

Crowds gather after the attack, which is thought to have killed at least 10 and injured about 70. Photo: AFP

In a statement published online, IS said "the soldiers of the Caliphate" were behind the attack and pledged "dark days ahead" for the Shia community. It identified the bomber as Abu Amer al-Najdi.

In a separate statement, the jihadist group also said it was behind a similar attack on a Shi'ite mosque in neighbouring Yemen on Friday, which injured about a dozen people.

Saudi Arabia has previously been threatened by IS, which is being targeted by a US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq.

In November last year, an audio recording purported to be from IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on Saudi followers to attack Shi'ite targets.

More than 2000 Saudis are believed to have joined IS, with hundreds having returned home. Saudi Arabia has launched a security crackdown in recent months, arresting hundreds of IS suspects.

Saudi Arabia's large Shia Muslim minority is mainly based in the Eastern Province, and there have been sporadic protests by Shia there for greater rights.

The attack comes at a time when the Saudis are leading a coalition of Arab states in an air campaign against Shia rebels in Yemen.


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs