Saudi Arabia: 4 wounded in bomb blast at WWI memorial in Jeddah

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Intl desk, Nov 11: Several people were wounded on Wednesday when an explosive device hit a ceremony commemorating the end of World War I at a cemetery in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah.

France’s foreign ministry said several countries had representatives at the commemoration attended by European diplomats.

“The annual ceremony commemorating the end of World War I at the non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, attended by several consulates, including that of France, was the target of an IED [improvised explosive device] attack this morning, which injured several people,” the ministry said.

“France strongly condemns this cowardly, unjustifiable attack.”

The explosion was confirmed by an official from Greece who declined to be named.

“There was some sort of a blast at the non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah. There are four slightly injured, among them one Greek,” the official said, without providing further details.

France has urged its citizens in the kingdom to be “on maximum alert” amid heightened tensions after an assailant decapitated a French middle school teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

“In particular, exercise discretion and stay away from all gatherings and be cautious when moving around,” said a foreign ministry statement, which was circulated to French residents in Jeddah.

Saudi officials have yet to comment on the attack and Saudi state-run media did not report it. King Salman is also scheduled to deliver an annual address to the nation on Wednesday, laying out policy priorities for the coming year.

Extremely offensive

Wednesday’s blast came as French President Emmanuel Macron – the target of ire in much of the Muslim world for promising to defend comments and images disparaging Islam following a spate of attacks – attended a WWI memorial ceremony in Paris.

Several countries are marking the 102nd anniversary of the armistice signed by Germany and Allied countries to end the 1914-1918 war.

Macron has vigorously defended the right to publish cartoons viewed as extremely offensive by Muslims, including caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad printed by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The same cartoons were shown by French history teacher Samuel Paty to pupils in a class on free speech, leading to his beheading outside Paris on October 16 following an online campaign by parents angry over his choice of lesson material.

Macron’s stance angered many Muslims, prompting angry protests in several countries and a campaign to boycott French products.

Last month, a Saudi citizen with a knife injured a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah on the same day a knife-wielding man killed three people in a church in Nice in southern France.

Saudi Arabia – home to Islam’s holiest sites – has criticised the cartoons but “strongly” condemned last month’s attack in Nice.

Speaking from Paris, Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler said it was important not to speculate about the reason behind the attack and whether or not there was a French connection.

She explained however that following recent events, “tensions have been growing” across parts of the world and “an anti-French sentiment is there.”

“Whether or not that is the motivation behind the attack in Jeddah today, we can’t say,” said Butler adding that ceremony was a joint event that involved representatives from Greece, Italy, the UK and US as well.

On Tuesday, Macron hosted a summit of European leaders to plot a joint approach to combating what he calls “Islamist radicalism” after four people were killed in a shooting rampage in the heart of Vienna last week.

Source: News Agencies