Thursday 10/28/21

France: WWI commemoration in Saudi Arabia attacked, injuries reported

The "attack with an explosive device" took place in the non-Muslim cemetery in the Red Sea port of Jeddah.
A mosque in Jeddah. Photo: Pixabay.

Several people were injured on Wednesday in an explosion at a World War I commemoration in Saudi Arabia attended by foreign consular officials, according to the French Foreign Ministry.

The "attack with an explosive device" took place in the non-Muslim cemetery in the Red Sea port of Jeddah during an annual ceremony to commemorate the 1918 armistice that ended the war, the ministry said.

An attendee at the ceremony told French broadcaster BFMTV that she heard an explosion while the French consul general was speaking, and saw two people injured.

The Foreign Ministry did not indicate the number of injured, their nationalities, or how badly they were hurt.

Greek consulate employee injured

However, the Saudi state news agency, citing a local spokesperson, said an employee at the Greek consulate and a Saudi security officer were slightly injured in what it called a "cowardly attack." 

Saudi security agencies imposed a security cordon around the cemetery after the blast, Saudi state television al-Ekhbariya reported.

The broadcaster, showing footage from the vicinity of the cemetery, said the situation in the area was stable.

Saudi authorities were conducting investigations into the circumstances of the incident, the broadcaster said without further details. 

The French embassy, meanwhile, said the ceremony was the target of an improvised explosive device attack.

In a joint statement with the Greek, Italian, British and United States embassies in Riyadh, the mission condemned the incident, calling it a "cowardly attack." 

They said such attacks on "innocent people are shameful and entirely without justification."

The incident came less than two weeks after a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah was stabbed and slightly injured.

Two Islamist attacks

At home, France has seen two suspected Islamist attacks in the last month, including the beheading in mid-October of a teacher who used controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in a lesson on freedom of expression.

On the same day as the guard at the Jeddah consulate was stabbed, three people were killed in a knife attack inside a church in the southern French city of Nice.

President Emmanuel Macron has been on a diplomatic offensive in recent weeks, seeking to explain that, while France protects the freedom of expression - up to and including blasphemies that shock believers - it also respects all religions, including Islam.

At the same time, a planned crackdown on Islamism at home has led some French Muslims to complain that the government is unfairly singling them out for attention.