Saudis foil suicide attack on Grand Mosque in Mecca

A terror plot to carry out suicide attacks on pilgrims visiting the Grand Mosque in Mecca was foiled by Saudi security forces when a suspect wearing a bomb vest was cornered and blew himself up. The partial collapse of the House in which he was hiding resulted in 5 people being injured.

The attack was planned by 3 terrorist cells - two in Mecca and one in Jeddah, according to a statement issued by the Saudi interior minister.


The Interior Ministry said the identity of the attacker was still being verified but pointed to foreign involvement, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

"They obeyed their evil and corrupt selves serving schemes managed from abroad whose aim is to destabilize the security and stability of this blessed country," the ministry was quoted as saying.

"The security people, with the help of Almighty Allah, and then the unlimited support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Crown Prince, will be able to foil these criminal schemes and arrest those involved in them."

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan condemned the attempted attack and said his country stood with Saudi Arabia in combating terrorism.

"This heinous crime exposes the extent of terrorism and the savagery of those terrorist groups, and no one in their right mind can justify or explain it," he said in a statement Saturday.

Saudi Arabia has suffered a string of terror attacks in recent years, as well as thwarting a number of alleged plots.

In October, the Interior Ministry said Saudi security forces had arrested two separate terrorist cells, one of which planned to attack a football World Cup qualifying match in Jeddah that month. Four Pakistani nationals were arrested in connection with that plot, while four Saudi nationals were detained from the other cell.

Saudi policemen stand guard at the site where a suicide bomber blew himself up in July 2016 near the US consulate in Jeddah.

Three suicide bombings were carried out in July last year -- in Medina, Jeddah and Qatif. Saudi authorities identified the Jeddah bomber as a Pakistani; two guards were wounded in the attack, close to the US consulate. The Medina attack, close to one of the holiest sites in Islam, killed four security guards. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but Saudi officials blamed local cells sympathetic to ISIS.

While ISIS would be the logical choice to blame for the planned attack, there are other extremist groups in the Muslim world who would be eager to discredit the Saudi royal family. The royals are seen as the guardians of Islam's two holiest places - Mecca and Medinah. Even a foiled attack reflects badly on the royal family. Members of the House of Saud were expected to be in Mecca on Sunday, the last day of the holy month of Ramadan.

There are hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Mecca at this time of year, and a suicide attack would almost certainly have started a stampede that might have killed hundreds of people. A panic that occurred in 2015 killed upwards of 2,000 people, although the Saudi government has never published reliable casualty figures from that incident.

If ISIS was responsible, it would be in keeping with their long stated goal of destablizing Saudi Arabia by delegitimizing the royal family. Whatever the case and whomever was behind the attack, the Saudi government dodged a bullet by foiling it.