Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudis have condemned the suicide bomb attack on a Shi’ite mosque in the eastern city of Dammam on Friday as details of the foiled terrorist plot continue to emerge.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, an eye-witness said that the suicide bomber had attempted to gain access to the mosque but had been prevented from doing so by worshipers and local security, fleeing the scene he detonated his explosives vest resulting in the deaths of four victims.
Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said that those “martyred” in the attack were Abdul-Jalil Al-Arbash, his cousin Mohamed Al-Eissa, Abdul Hadi Salman Al-Hashim and Mohamed Jomaa Al-Arbash.
Mosque guards Abdul-Jalil Al-Arbash and Mohammed Al-Eissa have been praised for their role in foiling the attack, with Saudis taking to social media to hail them as “heroes” and “martyrs.” A selfie of the two is trending on Twitter, as is an image of a relative of Abdul-Jalil Al-Arbash prostrating himself in prayer at the site of the attack.
“Rest in peace. We, your family and members of your sect and nation, will not forget you and will crush those who shed your blood,” read one tweet addressing the pair, which has been re-tweeted more than a thousand times.
Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry initially claimed that the attack was a suicide car bombing, however it later emerged that the attacker had attempted to enter the mosque in order to detonate his explosives vest in the midst of worshippers, having failed to gain access to the mosque he detonated the vest at the Al-Anoud mosque entryway.
The attack “coincided” with a “suspicious” car being parked in the nearby mosque car park, although it was unclear whether the suicide bomber had arrived in the car, the Interior Ministry said.
In comments to the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said: “Preliminary investigations revealed that the explosion coincided with the suspicious car being parked. The explosion happened when a person wearing female clothes blew himself up using an explosives belt at the mosque’s gate as the security men were approaching him to check his identity.”
The explosion resulted in a number of cars in the nearby parking lot catching fire, which had confused the preliminary investigation into the attack.
Security at Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite mosques has been stepped up following a similar attack at a Shi’ite mosque in Qatif last Friday, which resulted in the deaths of at least 21 worshipers. The heightened security prevented the suicide bomber from gaining access to the Al-Anoud mosque’s interior and potentially causing many more deaths.
Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Al-Sheikh condemned the attack on the mosque, describing those who carry out attacks such as this as the “enemies of Islam,” recalling similar comments issued last week following the attack on the Qatif mosque.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Grand Mufti said: “Targeting worshipers is a grave offense that shows that the perpetrator is not a believer [Muslim] but an enemy of Islam.”
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for both attacks, stating that Saudi national Abu Jandal Al-Jazrawi (assumed to be a teknonym and not the attacker’s real name) had carried out the “blessed martyrdom operation” in Dammam.
Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Al-Sheikh said: “This is a deviant group that has nothing to do with Islam or religion.”
Reporting by Mirza Al-Khuwaylidi and Ali Al-Qattan in Dammam and Nayef Al-Rasheed in Riyadh.