Saudi Arabia says Islamic State ordered attack on Shia
Four main suspects arrested over shootings that killed seven in al-Ahsa
There are fears that jihadist groups such as Islamic Stat now operating in Syria or Iraq will radicalise Saudis to mount a new wave of strikes inside the kingdom
Saudi Arabia has arrested the four main suspects in an attack on Shia Muslims this month and believes it was ordered by Islamic State militants from abroad, an interior ministry security spokesman said.
Seven members of the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s Shia minority were shot dead in the Eastern Province district of al-Ahsa on November 3rd as they marked their holy day of Ashoura.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, put down an upsurge of Islamist militancy a decade ago, but fears that jihadist groups such as Islamic State or the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front now operating in Syria or Iraq will radicalise Saudis to mount a new wave of strikes inside the kingdom.
Last week, the ministry said militants were trying to attack Saudi Arabia, but that it was not aware of any evidence that the al-Ahsa attack had been coordinated with Islamic State.
On Monday, the ministry spokesman said 77 suspects had been arrested so far, and that they were believed to include the four main perpetrators.
He said the leader of the al-Ahsa attack had received orders from abroad, and that “the target, as well as those to be targeted and the timing were all specified for him, as well as the provision that the [attack] be carried out in al-Ahsa”.
The spokesman said security forces carried out operations “to arrest everyone affiliated with this terrorist group, whether those who pledged allegiance to the leader of the group, or participants, supporters, financiers, or those who provide cover”.
Two Saudis and a Qatari were killed as they resisted arrest, along with two security officers, the ministry said.
Authorities had already said that among the detainees were people believed to have fought for Sunni jihadists in Syria or who had previously been jailed for fighting for al-Qaeda.
As the birthplace of Islam and a champion of conservative Sunni doctrine, Saudi Arabia is an important ally for Western countries battling Islamic State, and its monarchy a symbolic target for the militant group itself.
Although it has backed rebel groups fighting alongside jihadis against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Saudi Arabia has also taken steps to stop its citizens joining militants in Syria or Iraq or funding them.
Another bomb in the capital’s southeast killed two people, sources said. They were the latest explosions to shake the mainly Shia city. Many of the bombings have been claimed by Islamic State fighters who have seized control of large parts of north and west Iraq, as well as a belt of land around Baghdad.
In Ramadi, capital of the western province of Anbar, a local official reported heavy clashes between armed forces and Islamic State militants who have been fighting for four days to take full control of the city.
Athal al-Fahdawi said the heaviest fighting took place in the al-Hooz neighbourhood, just south of a government complex in the centre of Ramadi that houses the police headquarters and the offices of the Anbar governorate.
Four Islamic State fighters were killed as well as three men from local tribes opposed to the group.
The tribesmen were killed when they sought refuge in a booby-trapped house, Fahdawi said. – (Reuters)