JEDDAH: Diplomatic security officers thwarted a possible suicide bomb attack on the US consulate in Jeddah in the early hours of Monday morning, the Ministry of Interior said.
Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said the bomber managed to kill only himself as he detonated his suicide vest at 2:15 a.m. when security guards approached him near the parking lot of a hospital nearby.
Cars were damaged and two security men suffered injuries, but they were declared safe after treatment, the MOI said in a statement posted on its website.
Al-Turki said the suicide bomber was identified as an expatriate in his 30s. He did not disclose the nationality.
Investigators found that the suicide vest only partially exploded and a controlled secondary explosion had to be done by bomb experts in the scene. Security forces also detonated several other explosive devices found at the scene.
Al-Turki said the attacker caught the attention of the security officers, who noticed he was acting suspiciously at an intersection located on the corner of the heavily fortified US consulate in Jeddah, located by the Dr. Soliman Fakeeh Hospital. Most of the consulate’s staff had reportedly moved offices to a new location.
Security officials cordoned off the area around the consulate, which is surrounded by Palestine, Al-Andalus, Al-Hamra and Hail roads. The US Embassy in Riyadh confirmed in a statement for US citizens that there were no casualties or injuries among consular staff. The embassy said it remains in contact with Saudi authorities as they investigate the attack.
The Interior Ministry did not specify if the attacker was intending to target the US diplomatic compound, saying an investigation was underway to determine his identity.
A 2004 Al-Qaeda-linked militant attack on the US consulate in Jeddah killed five locally hired consular employees and four gunmen. The three-hour battle on the compound came amid a wave of Al-Qaeda attacks targeting Westerners and Saudi security posts.
More recently, Saudi Arabia has been a target of Daesh group attacks that have killed dozens of people.
In June, the Interior Ministry reported 26 terror attacks had taken place in the kingdom in the last two years. Local affiliates of the Daesh group have targeted minority Shiites and security officials. The attack comes just days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in which observant Muslims fast daily from dawn to dusk. The US Embassy regularly issues advisory messages for US citizens in Saudi Arabia.
In a message issued Sunday and another one issued after the attack Monday, the embassy urged Americans to “remain aware of their surroundings, and take extra precautions when traveling throughout the country.” It also advised citizens to “carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia.”
(Additional input from Agencies)