A suicide bomber has blown himself up in the Saudi city of Medina near the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque, which is one of Islam’s holiest sites, officials say. Four people were killed and several others have been injured.
The attack happened just after 7:15 p.m. local time on Monday as many thousands of people headed to the Prophet’s Mosque for the start of prayer. The explosion took place in a parking area a short distance from the mosque, causing large plumes of smoke that were visible from far away.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said the attacker was on his way to the mosque when he was stopped by security personnel, prompting him to detonate his explosives belt. It was unclear whether the attacker was traveling on foot or in a car that was burning at the site.
Video from the scene showed at least one body in the vicinity of the vehicle, and the interior ministry later confirmed that 4 security personnel had been killed, while 5 other security personnel were injured. There was no immediate word on their conditions, though Saudi media said some were critically injured.
The explosions drew huge crowds after the initial panic subsided, but the mosque remains open as usual though the security level has been raised to maximum. The Prophet’s Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s deadly attack, which occurred almost simultaneously with a suicide bombing at a mosque in Qatif, and came less than a day after a suicide bombing near the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. Experts pointed at the Islamic State group (ISIS) as the likely perpetrator.
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