SHAFAQNA – They are angry and grief-stricken, but Saudi Arabia’s minority Shias refused on Sunday to be provoked by a deadly mosque bombing that authorities called an attempt to promote sectarian strife.
King Salman vowed punishment for anyone linked to the “heinous crime,” which killed 21 people.
The interior ministry confirmed the identity of the suicide bomber who blew himself up inside a Shiite mosque in Eastern Province on Friday and said he had links with the Islamic State jihadist group.
It was the deadliest assault in years on the kingdom, and marked the first time IS 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 Kudeih village blast told AFP.
“They just want justice.”
Naseema Assada, a resident of Shia-majority Qatif city near the stricken village, said she visited seven families affected by the attack.
“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 eastern region on Saturday to denounce the attack.
In neighbouring Bahrain, Shias marched in solidarity with the Saudi victims and clashed with riot police.
The mosque bombing occurred despite security checkpoints in Qatif, residents said.
“This is strange,” Assada said. “The government should protect people and if it’s not, this is the government’s fault.”
Such emotions are natural after a deadly incident but police have foiled many plots and have themselves become the most frequent targets of “terrorist” attacks, Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki told reporters on Sunday.
“We did not have any information or evidence that they were about to carry out a terrorist attack in any mosque anywhere in the kingdom,” Turki said.
In a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) late Saturday, the interior ministry identified the bomber as Salih bin Abdulrahman Salih al-Ghishaami, a Saudi national.
“He was wanted by security services for belonging to a terrorist cell receiving directions from Daesh abroad,” the ministry said.
The militant group had already claimed Friday’s attack but identified the bomber as Abu Amer al-Najdi.
“The cell was discovered last month, and so far 26 of its members, all Saudi nationals, have been arrested,” the interior ministry said, raising the number of wounded from 81 to 101.
Ministry officials alleged the cell leader is Abdel Malik, who recruited relatives and friends and taught them how to use weapons.
In a telegram to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also the interior minister, King Salman pledged the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
“Anyone taking part, planning, supporting, cooperating or sympathising with this heinous crime will be held accountable,” the king said in the message carried by SPA.
“We were… pained by the intensity of this terrorist crime that contradicts the values of Islam and humanity” and which targeted innocent civilians, he added.
It is the second mass killing of Shias in the kingdom since late last year.
In November, gunmen killed seven Shiites in the Eastern Province town of Al-Dalwa.