Terrorism

Saudi clerics condemn ISIL's Ramadan attacks

By Sultan al-Barei in Riyadh

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Saudi security forces surround the site of a July 4th attack in Jeddah. [Photo courtesy of Saudi Press Agency]

In the wake of a series of "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) suicide attacks during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, clerics in the country are condemning the group's complete disregard for the holy month and the true spirit of Islam.

ISIL's attacks started July 4th before dawn and ended in the evening, leaving four policemen dead and many wounded, according to the Saudi Interior Ministry.

Just after 2 a.m. that day, security officers became suspicious of a man at the intersection of Palestine Street and Hail Street in Jeddah near Dr. Soliman Fakeeh Hospital, the ministry said in a report carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

When they approached to investigate, he blew himself up with an explosives belt in the hospital’s parking lot, killing himself and slightly injuring two security officers, the ministry said.

Around 7 p.m. the same day, just before sunset prayers, security forces became suspicious of a man walking towards the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi.

When they tried to apprehend him, he detonated his explosives belt, killing four security officers as they were getting ready to have their iftar meal, the ministry said.

"Four security guards were martyred and five others wounded as a result of their opposition to the suicide attacker, who detonated explosives near them as he was on his way to the mosque," the ministry said on Twitter.

Around the same time, another suicide bomber targeted Sheikh Faraj al-Omran Mosque in the eastern Qatif region, causing material damage but no casualties.

Widespread condemnation

"The ISIL terrorist group has reached the pinnacle of criminality and strayed the farthest away from religion with the bombings it carried out in the kingdom," said Adel al-Usaimi, imam of al-Khair mosque in Riyadh.

"The day of the bombing coincided with the penultimate day of the holy month of Ramadan, when all areas are congested with citizens who turn out in large numbers at mosques," he told Al-Mashareq.

"The Prophet's Mosque alone was at its full capacity of more than one million worshipers from all over the world when the bombing occurred just outside it," he said.

While ISIL "previously targeted Shia mosques to have the Sunni community accused of igniting sedition", al-Usaimi said, it has now decided "to attack everyone in revenge against the kingdom and its people, who reject the black terrorism that ISIL is trying to spread in the region".

The attack on the Prophet’s Mosque, one the most revered sites for all Muslims, represents the height of disrespect for the sanctity of religious sites, he added.

Saudis united

Sheikh Hashem Almjehd, a Shia cleric from the eastern al-Ahsa region, praised the security forces for preventing the suicide bombers from being able to enter the mosques and cause more civilian casualties.

"Day after day, ISIL confirms that it is a terrorist group whose aim is to commit crimes and kill civilians and innocents without regard for the sanctity of blood or any human decency or social consideration," he told Al-Mashareq.

This is "evident by its latest suicide attacks that targeted several religious and public sites that were crowded with civilians", he added.

The explosions in Jeddah, Medina and Qatif occurred in parking lots outside the intended targets thanks to the tight security measures in place, he said.

The number of civilian casualties could have been much higher had the bombers been able to enter the grounds of the mosques or Fakeeh Hospital, one of the main hospitals in the region, he added.

"A review of the intended targets reveals that there is only one target, namely the Saudi citizen regardless of his sect or [religious] affiliation," Almjehd said. "This is the price Saudis have to pay for holding on to their national unity in the face of the terrorism that is striking their country."

Lone wolves

Saudi Police Col. Jamal al-Nukhaifi told Al-Mashareq that the most serious of the July 4th attacks was the attack on the Prophet's Mosque.

Had the terrorist been able to enter the inner sanctum of the mosque or at least reach one of its entrances, he said, thousands of lives would have been lost.

"The quick action taken by the security forces, including briefly blocking worshipers from exiting [the mosque], prevented a stampede from taking place among frightened worshipers that would have left a high number of fatalities," he said.

"The terrorist attacks that were carried out in the kingdom bear the fingerprints of lone wolves, which has become the only remaining means for this terrorist group to move and carry out attacks," he said.

It is "impossible" for ISIL to carry out attacks using a large number of militants amid the heightened security measures implemented by the Saudi security forces, he added.

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Wonderful news and it is a very encouraging thing to see clerics encouraging people to fight the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).

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