Bomb blast at Jeddah WWI memorial causes injuries

France strongly condemned the “cowardly, unjustifiable attack.”
Wednesday 11/11/2020
A 2016 file picture shows Saudi security forces taking part in a military parade in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
A 2016 file picture shows Saudi security forces taking part in a military parade in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP)

JEDDAH --A bomb on Wednesday struck a World War I commemoration attended by European diplomats in the Saudi city of Jeddah, France said, leaving several people wounded.

The attack at a non-Muslim cemetery is the second assault in the kingdom in less than a month, as French President Emmanuel Macron has sought to assuage anger across Muslim nations over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

“The annual ceremony commemorating the end of World War I at the non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, attended by several consulates, including that of France, was the target of an IED [improvised explosive device] attack this morning, which injured several people,” France’s foreign ministry said.

“France strongly condemns this cowardly, unjustifiable attack.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion.

Hours after the attack, Saudi state-media quoted a local official acknowledging the attack and saying that a Greek consulate employee and Saudi security man were lightly wounded in the incident. The Saudi official said an investigation is underway.

Saudi state television also broadcast from outside the cemetery and stressed that the security situation was now “stable.”

Roads leading up to the cemetery in central Jeddah were blocked by Saudi traffic police.

Last month, a Saudi citizen with a knife wounded a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah on the same day that a knife-wielding man killed three people in a church in Nice in southern France.

The French embassy in Riyadh has urged its nationals in Saudi Arabia to exercise “extreme vigilance.”

Wednesday’s blast came as Macron, the target of protests in many parts of the Muslim world , attended a WWI memorial ceremony in Paris.

Saudi map

The French president has been assailed for defending the “right to publish” cartoons deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed by many Muslims.

On Tuesday, Macron hosted a summit of European leaders to plot a joint approach to combating Islamist radicalism after four people were killed in a shooting rampage in the heart of Vienna last week.

Several countries are marking the 102nd anniversary of the armistice signed by Germany and Allied countries to end the war.

The same cartoons were shown by French history teacher Samuel Paty to pupils in a class on free speech, leading to his beheading outside Paris on October 16 following an online campaign by parents angry over his choice of lesson material.

Macron’s stance angered many Muslims, prompting protests in several countries and a campaign to boycott French products.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia — home to Islam’s holiest sites — has criticised the cartoons, saying it rejected “any attempt to link Islam and terrorism” but it stopped short of condemning the French leadership.

Riyadh also “strongly” condemned last month’s attack in Nice.

Jeddah, the Red Sea port city, saw its Ottoman troops surrender to the local troops backed by the British in 1916 amid the war. That sparked the start of the Kingdom of Hejaz, which later became part of Saudi Arabia in 1932

Jeddah’s Non-Muslim Cemetery sits nears this port city’s docks, hidden behind trees alongside a major thoroughfare in the city. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission shows just one soldier buried at the cemetery, Pvt. John Arthur Hogan, who died in June 1944.