Saudi Interior Ministry identifies perpetrator as Saleh bin Abdul Rahman Saleh Qashimi, a Saudi citizen wanted for belonging to Islamic State
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said on Sunday he was “heartbroken” over a suicide bombing at a Shia mosque in the kingdom that killed 21 people, state news agency SPA reported, a conciliatory statement as sectarian strife intensifies in the region.
Salman said anyone linked to the attack, claimed by the self-styled Islamic State (IS), or who sympathises with it, will be brought to justice.
“We were pained by the enormity of the crime of this terrorist aggression which contradicts Islamic and humanitarian values,” the king said in a message to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also the interior minister.
“Any participant, planner, supporter or sympathiser with this heinous crime will be held accountable, tried and will receive the punishment he deserves,” he said.
The bombing in Saudi Arabia came as tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims are on the increase in the region.
A Sunni militant blew himself up in the al-Qadeeh village mosque in Saudi Arabia’s heavily Shia east during Friday prayers, in one of the worst attacks in the kingdom in years.
The Saudi Interior Ministry identified the perpetrator as Saleh bin Abdul Rahman Saleh Qashimi, a Saudi citizen wanted for belonging to Islamic State. The militant group had identified him on Friday by a nom de guerre, Abu ‘Ammar al-Najdi.
The interior ministry said the suicide bomber belonged to a cell of which 26 members have been arrested.
They are angry and grief-stricken, but Saudi Arabia’s minority Shia refused on Sunday to be provoked by a deadly mosque bombing that authorities called an attempt to promote sectarian strife.
The interior ministry confirmed the identity of the suicide bomber who blew himself up inside a Shiite mosque in Eastern Province on Friday, killing 21, and said he had links with the Islamic State jihadist group.
It was the deadliest attack in years to strike the Sunni-dominated kingdom, and marked the first time IS had claimed an attack in Saudi Arabia.
“No, no, no… There is no action” in the form of retaliation, a Shia resident who said he lost three friends in the attack on Kudeih village said. “They just want justice.”
Naseema Assada, a resident of Shia-majority Qatif city near the stricken village, said she visited seven families whose loved ones died in the bombing.
“They are angry at Daesh and radical Sunnis,” but not at Sunnis in general, she said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
Residents said two children were among the dead, and plans were being made for a mass burial.
Demonstrators took to the streets of the region on Saturday to denounce the attack, which residents said occurred despite security checkpoints in Qatif.
“This is strange,” Assada said. “The government should protect people and if it’s not, this is the government’s fault.”
Saudi Arabia is part of an international coalition carrying out bombing strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.
Saudi and Gulf governments fear that sectarian wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq where they and other Sunni Muslim allies are fighting groups close to Shi’ite archrival Iran will radicalize their citizens and harm domestic security.