A suicide bomb attack during Friday prayers at a Shia mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia has killed 21 people and injured more than 1200 others, according to local residents and hospital officials.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement posted online, a group calling itself Najd Province, a new affiliate of Isil, said “soldiers of the caliphate” were behind the attack in the eastern region of Qatif. The group pledged “dark days ahead” for Shia Muslims in the country.
It was the group’s most devastating attack on Saudi soil to date, and its first suicide bombing in the country. In November, gunmen ambushed a religious anniversary celebration, killing eight Shias.
Saudi Arabia identified late Saturday the suicide bomber as 20 year-old Saleh al-Qashami, the Riyadh-based SPA said, citing an unidentified interior ministry spokesman. He was wanted for belonging to an Islamic State affiliate in the kingdom, the news service said.
The attack was a sign that Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the sectarian conflict in Yemen may be escalating tensions at home. Members of the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia, who make up about 15 percent of the population and live mainly in the Eastern Province, have long complained of insults and discrimination by Saudi Arabia’s Sunni majority and its clerical establishment.