JEDDAH: Bahrain, Jordan and the United States on Saturday condemned the terrorist attack on a Shiite gathering in the eastern city of Saihat that killed five people.
In a statement carried by the official Bahraini News Agency (BNA), Manama expressed its “sincere condolences” to Saudi Arabia and emphasized its firm stance and solidarity with the Kingdom “in all its actions to maintain its security and stability.”
Jordan said it stands firmly with Saudi Arabia and supports all the measures it is undertaking to fight lawlessness.
“Jordan also extends condolences to Kingdom's government, Saudi people and families of the victims,” the spokesman said.
US Ambassador Joseph Westphal said in a statment: “Yesterday’s despicable attack in Saihat is a reminder of the scourge of terrorism which we and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia face together. I express my condolences to the families of those who were killed and my wishes for a rapid recovery of those who were wounded.”
Friday’s attack was the latest in a series of bombings and shootings linked to the Daesh extremist group in Saudi Arabia over the past year.
Shiite leaders were gathered at a meeting hall in Al-Kawthar district in Saihat, a city in Qatif, Eastern Province, when a gunman with an automatic weapon “started to shoot randomly” at them, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
One of the five fatalities was a woman; nine others were wounded, the ministry said. Police intervened and opened fire, killing the suspect, the spokesman said without giving details about the attacker, adding that the shooting was being investigated.
Despite the attack, Shiites vowed Saturday to continue commemorations of Ashura, among the holiest occasions for their faith,
A group calling itself Islamic State-Bahrain Province said in a statement that one of its “soldiers,” Shughaa Al-Dosari, “attacked a Shiite infidel temple with an automatic weapon” in Saihat.
“Infidels will not be safe in the island of Mohammed,” it warned.
A video, allegedly of the attack, posted on YouTube showed terrified people, among them many children, running frantically for cover inside the place of worship while gun shots could be heard.
Ali Al-Bahrani who witnessed the attack said that the gunman was shooting at random as worshippers attended a sermon.
Jaafar Al-Abbad, the uncle of the dead woman, Buthaina Al-Abbad, 22, said she died a “martyr for the sake of her beliefs.”
“She was about to graduate from university as a doctor. Now she is a martyr, and this is even better,” he said.
“People are pouring in to congratulate her parents,” said Abbadi.
He echoed other Shiites saying such attacks “will not deter us from continuing to observe our rituals.”
Nasema Al-Sada, an activist from Eastern Province, said that since the start of Ashura volunteers have set up checkpoints at the entrances to places of worship in coordination with authorities.
Security has been tightened at Shiite facilities since May when separate suicide mosque bombings killed 25 people.
Both attacks were claimed by Daesh, Arabic acronym for Islamic State, which considers Shiites to be heretics.
During Ashura last year, gunmen killed seven Shiite worshippers, including children, in the eastern town of Al-Dalwa.
The interior ministry said the unprecedented incident had links to Daesh — which has also targeted Saudi police.
Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Gulf neighbors last year joined a United States-led military coalition that is bombing Daesh in Syria and Iraq where the extremists have set up an Islamic “caliphate.”
In July, Saudi Arabia said it had broken up a Daesh-linked network and arrested more than 430 suspects involved in attacks and plots.
Earlier Friday, Saudi Arabia Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh branded Daesh as an enemy of Islam.
“The reality is that they are shedding Muslim blood and destroying Islam. There is no good in them,” he said during weekly prayers at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh.
(Additional input from Agence France Presse)