A suicide bomber detonated his explosives after being denied entry to a Shiite mosque in the capital of Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich east, killing three people, the second successive Friday that the minority has been targeted.
The bomber was dressed in the traditional cloak worn by Saudi women and blew himself up outside the mosque in Dammam, the official Saudi Press Agency said. Four people were injured.
Islamic State claimed responsibility, as it did last week when a suicide attacker struck Friday prayers at a mosque in nearby Qatif, killing at least 21 people. That was the bloodiest attack in Saudi Arabia in months.
The kingdom is supporting U.S.-led operations against Islamic State in Syria and is leading a military intervention against Shiite rebels in Yemen. Islamic State, the Sunni group that has declared a caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq it controls, has repeatedly targeted Shiites, whom it considers heretics.
Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community has complained about discrimination by the kingdom’s Sunni rulers, and have occasionally staged protests. Authorities described last week’s attack as an attempt to undermine unity in the kingdom and spark sectarian unrest.
Saudi Arabia’s top Sunni cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, said Friday the suicide bombers carrying out the attacks are “killers and criminals” bent on destroying the country and its resources, according to state-run Saudi television.
The blast in Dammam in the country’s Eastern Province erupted as prayers were under way at the packed mosque, according to video footage broadcast by Arabiya. Thick smoke billowed from the scene.
Shiite activist Ahmed Ali said mosques had imposed security measures after the Qatif blast, including closing off women’s prayers area and forming committees, in coordination with Saudi authorities, to search worshippers.
When the bomber found the area reserved for women closed, he went to the main gate, Ali said by phone from Dammam. Two of those killed were guards who pushed him away, he said.
Five burned-out cars littered the vicinity of the mosque, said Walid Suleis, another Shiite activist speaking from Dammam. Security forces have cordoned off the area, he added.
Saudi Arabia has vowed to crack down on Sunni extremist groups, even as it’s accused by its Shiite regional rivals of inciting them. Jihadists such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda have typically denounced the Saudi royal family for betraying Islam through its alliance with the U.S.