Mecca bombing: Iran condemns attack, offers help to Saudi Arabia to tackle terrorism

Tehran: Iran on Saturday condemned a suicide bombing near Islam's holiest site in Mecca and offered Saudi Arabia its assistance in tackling terrorism despite their severed ties.

"Iran as always expresses its readiness to assist and cooperate with other countries to confront these criminals, who deal death and ignorantly spread hate," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said.

 Mecca bombing: Iran condemns attack, offers help to Saudi Arabia to tackle terrorism

Grand mosque, Mecca. Reuters

Six foreign pilgrims were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up near the Grand Mosque in Mecca, where hundreds of thousands of worshippers had gathered for prayers on the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

In dawn raids on Mecca and the Red Sea city of Jeddah officers arrested five suspects, including a woman, before surrounding the bomber's location around the Grand Mosque.

The Saudi interior ministry said a wider plot had been foiled with the arrest of five suspects earlier in the day. Since late 2014, the Kingdom has faced periodic bombings and shootings claimed by the Islamic State group.

Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are locked in a bitter battle for regional influence and have had no diplomatic relations since January last year.

Counter-terrorism capabilities

Near the end of Ramadan last year in the Saudi city of Medina, four security officers died in an explosion close to Islam's second holiest site, the Prophet's Mosque.

It was one of three suicide blasts around the kingdom on the same day, in which a total of seven people were believed killed. The others occurred in Jeddah and in the Gulf city of Qatif.

The United States Central Intelligence Agency said those attacks bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State. Most of the targets in Saudi Arabia have been the Shiite minority and security forces, killing dozens of people.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for attacks against the kingdom, a member of the United States-led coalition battling the group in Syria and Iraq.

Since July last year police has arrested around 40 people, including Saudis and Pakistanis, for alleged extremist links. Saudi Arabia's counter-terrorism capabilities – which for years were led by Prince Mohammed bin Nayef – are well-regarded internationally.

On Wednesday Prince Mohammed was ousted from his posts of crown prince and interior minister, replaced as heir to the throne by King Salman's son Mohammed bin Salman.

Friday's counter-terrorist operation was the first to take place under the new interior minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, who is in his early 30s.

Prince Abdulaziz is the nephew of the deposed minister.

Updated Date: Jun 24, 2017 14:30:01 IST