Militant group claims responsibility for shooting at Shia meeting hall in latest in series of deadly attacks in kingdom
A gunman shot and killed five people in an Islamic State-claimed attack on a Shia meeting hall in Saudi Arabia before being shot dead by police, said Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV.
Friday’s deadly assault will raise tensions in the kingdom’s largely Shia eastern province, a focus of the Sunni militants who view them as apostates worthy of death.
“A person who opened fire on a [Shia meeting place] was killed, and the attacker was in his 20s,” reported the government-run channel, Al Ekhbariya TV.
A resident reached by telephone told Reuters that the assailant approached the meeting hall in the eastern city of Saihat in a taxi, but was stopped at a checkpoint manned by volunteers protecting the site.
Police arrived and a gun battle broke out, which the resident said injured several people and left the shooter dead.
Isis claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted online, saying: “With the approval of God Almighty, the soldier of the caliphate Shuja al-Dawsari, may God accept him, set his Kalashnikov upon one of the apostate polytheists’ temples.”
Amateur video, said to be filmed by activists inside the hall, showed worshippers, including young children, crowding towards the entrance at the sound of gunfire before retreating in fear.
Isis has launched a series of deadly attacks inside the kingdom in recent months, aiming to stir sectarian confrontation on the Arabian peninsula and bring about the overthrow of Gulf states’ ruling dynasties.
A suicide bomber killed at least 15 people in an attack on a mosque used by members of a local security force in south-west Saudi Arabia in August and two separate suicide bombings on Shia mosques in May killed 25 worshippers.
Groups of volunteer security guards have been formed around Shia holy sites.
The Saudi rulers follow a strict version of Sunni Islam shared by the majority of the country’s population. Some local activists have accused security forces of not doing enough to thwart the assaults, a charge officials deny.
Saudi authorities said in July they had rounded up 431 Isis suspects and had foiled plots to attack places of worship and security forces.