Bombings in Saudi Arabia Cap A Deadly Week of Global Terror
A series of suicide bombings and attacks across the globe this past week shows the Islamic State’s reach extends far beyond Syria and Iraq.
A suicide bombing on Monday hit Saudi Arabia's city of Medina, close to the Prophet's Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, killing at least four people and wounding another. This occurred hours after a similar attack near the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, where a suicide bomber was killed and two police officers were hurt. They were the grisly bookend to a week that saw a series of terror strikes around the world, showing the Islamic State and those it inspires can reach beyond Iraq and Syria.
A suicide bombing on Monday hit Saudi Arabia’s city of Medina, close to the Prophet’s Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, killing at least four people and wounding another. This occurred hours after a similar attack near the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, where a suicide bomber was killed and two police officers were hurt. They were the grisly bookend to a week that saw a series of terror strikes around the world, showing the Islamic State and those it inspires can reach beyond Iraq and Syria.
Earlier Monday, at least one, and possibly two, explosions were heard in the eastern Saudi city of Qatif, but it’s not yet clear if it caused any casualties. Local reports indicate body parts were visible, thought to belong to the attacker or attackers.
It’s also not clear who is responsible for the series of attacks, which come as the holy month of Ramadan is drawing to a close and just ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. But Riyadh has been the target of Islamic State attacks in the past. The terror group accuses the Western-allied Saudi monarchy of apostasy for its efforts to destroy the group.
Monday’s attacks cap a violent week around the world, with three major terror strikes in Turkey, Bangladesh, and Iraq. In Istanbul on Tuesday, suicide bombers killed at least 44 at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday, gunmen stormed a restaurant in the city’s diplomatic zone and killed at least 20 people, most of them foreigners from Italy, Japan, India, and the United States; the Islamic State has claimed credit for the assault. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the early Sunday morning attack in central Baghdad, where a minivan packed with explosives blew up and killed at least 165 people, according to the BBC. On Monday, CNN reported that number had reached 200.
“Islamic State attacks in Saudi Arabia over recent months have varied between targeting Shia mosques, targeting police and security forces, targeting foreigners via lone actor attacks, and now targeting hardened diplomatic assets. This indicates that the group is experimenting and trying to learn about the state’s weaknesses to exploit them,” Firas Abi Ali, principal analyst at IHS Country Risk, said in statement Monday.
The U.S often cites progress in shrinking the Islamic State’s nominal “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. But the group’s spread to the rest of the world has been alarming. So far, attacks carried out by fighters claiming affiliation with the terror network have taken place in the United States, across Europe, and in Kuwait, Libya, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Tunisia. In many of these cases, however, it’s not clear if there was any direct coordination with the Islamic State; attackers could simply claim inspiration by it.
Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics, and author of the book “ISIS: A History,” told National Public Radio that the group is trying to retaliate over its battlefield losses in Iraq and Syria, and that its terror attacks abroad will only intensify.
“I take it that the next 12 months are going to be as bloody if not more so than the past year because ISIS, as it loses in Iraq and Syria, . . . is trying to divert attention from its losses.”
U.S. lawmakers are also concerned about ISIS’ ability to strike out despite a concerted U.S. and coalition effort to wipe out the group’s potential safe havens.
“It’s very much losing territory, but at the same time, expanding its global presence,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday.
The Saudi attacks were immediately seized upon by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who used it to call President Barack Obama and his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton as weak on terror. On Monday, he tweeted:
Clinton has yet to publicly respond to Monday’s round of terror attacks. On Sunday, she condemned the blasts in Baghdad.
In a statement Sunday after the Baghdad attack, National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price, said the incidents “only strengthen our resolve to support Iraqi security forces as they continue to take back territory from ISIL, just as we continue to intensify our efforts to root out ISIL’s terrorist network and leaders,” using another acronym for the group.
FP’s Dan DeLuce contributed to this report.
Photo credit: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/Getty Images
David Francis was a staff writer at Foreign Policy from 2014-2017.
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