Abha bomber was known to Saudi authorities
LONDON - The international community has been unified in its condemnation of the deadly terrorist attack on an Abha mosque in south-western Saudi Arabia. The suicide bombing, which targeted the Interior Ministry’s special forces and left 15 people dead and more than 30 injured, is considered the deadliest against Saudi security forces since the Islamic State (ISIS) made its presence known in the kingdom in 2014.
“It is a heinous crime that is contrary to values and principles of Islam and humanity as a whole,” Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Abdul Latif Al Zayani said in a statement.
Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan collectively denounced the attack, expressing solidarity with Saudi Arabia in combating terrorism.
Commenting on both the Abha bombing and an attack on a hotel in Mali, US National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said: “We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wish for the speedy recovery of the wounded. We express solidarity with the governments whose citizens were among the victims.
“The United States will continue to support our partners in Mali and Saudi Arabia as they combat this terrorist scourge.”
Following the release of a photograph and an audio recording of the perpetrator by ISIS affiliate Al-Hijaz Province, Saudi authorities identified the bomber as Saudi citizen Youssef al-Suleiman, 21.
In the audio recording Suleiman, identified by his nom de guerre Abu Sinan al-Najdi, warned that the Saudi government and its troops “will not enjoy peace” for taking part in the US-led coalition battling ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The Interior Ministry revealed that Suleiman had been detained for 45 days in 2013 on suspicion of belonging to an extremist group. According to pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, Suleiman was detained in 2013 but was let go due to a lack of evidence.
Other reports indicated that Suleiman came from the north-western town of Sakakah in Al- Jouf and had entered into a rehabilitation programme while jailed in Riyadh.
However, he was not on any of the kingdom’s most wanted lists although he is believed to have joined ISIS in late 2014 after getting inspired by websites and social media accounts attributed to the group.
The kingdom’s Interior minister has called for more vigilance following the August 6th attack. “Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz called on the need to intensify preparedness and raise the level of caution in the face of any developments that, God forbid, may arise,” a statement carried by the official Saudi news agency said. “This will not weaken our resolve in standing up to the enemies of the nation.”
In May, a suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in al-Qadeeh village in Qatif province, killing 22 people.
This was followed by an attack on the Imam Hussein mosque in Dammam a week later that left four people dead. In November 2014, a gunman opened fire at a mosque in the eastern Saudi town of Al-Ahsa, killing eight.
Saudi authorities warned ISIS was trying to incite sectarian conflict and have arrested 431 people in a major crackdown on ISIS-linked cells. An ISIS-affiliated group calling itself Najd Province, named after the region around Riyadh, claimed responsibility for the attacks as well as a suicide bombing that killed 26 people at a Shia mosque in Kuwait in June.
The kingdom’s security organs said that they have thwarted other attacks by ISIS, including a suicide bomb plot targeting a mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia that can hold 3,000 worshipers, and attempts to attack other mosques, diplomatic missions and security bodies.