Mass funeral for Qatif bombing victims

Updated 26 May 2015
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Mass funeral for Qatif bombing victims

QATIF: Tens of thousands of people gathered Monday for a mass funeral for the victims of a mosque bombing authorities called an attempt by Islamic State militants to sow sectarian strife.
Mourners from the kingdom’s minority crowded the streets in the mainly Shiite Qatif district of the Eastern Province to show their respect for the 21 dead, who included two children.
An imam led the funeral prayer in a marketplace under a cloudless sky, as a breeze carried the fragrance of the herb placed on prayer mats upon which the bodies lay.
The bodies were then carried on litters decked with flowers in a final procession toward the cemetery in Kudeih village, where the attack took place on Friday.
Everybody “is very much anxious to participate... to express their support,” one organizer said ahead of the funeral, asking not to be named.
The suicide bombing, during the main weekly Muslim prayers in Kudeih, was the second mass killing of Shiites in the kingdom since late last year.
In November, gunmen killed seven Shiites in the Eastern Province town of Al-Dalwa.
Asked whether he feared a new attack during the funeral, the organizer said: “Nobody can predict anything. We have taken all precautions in coordination with local authorities.”
He added that tens of thousands of people had volunteered to act as crowd marshals for the ceremony.
He said safety concerns had prompted organizers to ask women to stay away from the funeral but that a separate area had been set up for them to offer condolences after the burials.
Black flags of mourning flew in the streets of Qatif, where police mounted checkpoints while volunteer marshals in bright yellow and orange vests inspected vehicles.
“What happened, the unfortunate event, made us more united,” said Ayman Alawi Abu Rahi, who is from Kudeih.
“We as a Shiite community, we are not afraid of explosions. We condemn the terrorists,” but not Sunnis. “They pray in our mosques,” he said.
The Islamic State group said it carried out the bombing, the first time the jihadists, who control swathes of neighboring Iraq and Syria, had claimed an attack in Saudi Arabia.
The Interior Ministry confirmed that the bomber, a Saudi national, had links with IS, which considers Shiites to be heretics.
It was the deadliest attack in years in Saudi Arabia, and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman vowed on Sunday that anyone with the slightest involvement in the “heinous crime” would be punished.


South Korea refuses refugee status for nearly 400 Yemenis

Updated 6 min 23 sec ago
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South Korea refuses refugee status for nearly 400 Yemenis

SEOUL: Nearly 400 Yemenis were denied refugee status by South Korea on Wednesday, months after their arrival on the resort island of Jeju triggered a populist outcry.
Ethnically-homogenous South Korea grants refugee status to only a tiny fraction of those who apply, despite having been ravaged by war itself within living memory.
About 500 people from the conflict-plagued Middle Eastern state arrived on Jeju earlier this year, taking advantage of the visa-free access the southern island offers to encourage tourism.
Their arrivals triggered a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the South, where only around four percent of the population are foreigners, mostly from China and Southeast Asia, and discrimination against migrant workers is widespread.
Many opponents cited the Yemenis’ Muslim religion and nearly 700,000 people — a record — signed a petition on the presidential website urging tightening of what are already some of the world’s toughest refugee laws.
The Jeju visa exemption rules were rapidly changed to exclude Yemenis.
A total of 481 Yemenis formally applied for asylum. Of those, 34 were rejected outright on Wednesday, the justice ministry said, and 339 were given humanitarian stay permits, allowing them to remain in the country for a year. Those whose claims were rejected outright may appeal.
Decisions were deferred on 85 others. Last month an initial 23, mostly families with children or pregnant women, were given the stay permits, which need to be renewed every 12 months and can be refused if the security situation in Yemen is deemed to have improved.
None of the applications for refugee status have so far been successful.
Since 1994 South Korea has approved just 4.1 percent of applications, official figures show. The rules do not apply to North Koreans, who are automatically considered citizens of the South.
A recent opinion poll showed about half of South Koreans opposed accepting the Yemeni asylum-seekers, with 39 percent in favor and 12 percent undecided.