Riyadh (AFP) – Saudi Arabia on Saturday confirmed the suicide bomber who killed 21 worshippers at a Shiite mosque had links with the Islamic State group, in what the interior ministry called an attempt to promote sectarian strife.
It was the deadliest attack in years to strike the Sunni-dominated kingdom, and marked the first time the jihadist IS group officially claimed an attack in Saudi Arabia.
“His name was Salih bin Abdulrahman Salih al-Ghishaami, a Saudi national,” the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
“He was wanted by security services for belonging to a terrorist cell receiving directions from Daesh abroad,” it said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
The militant group had already claimed the attack on Friday in Eastern Province, but it identified the bomber as Abu Amer al-Najdi.
“The cell was discovered last month, and so far 26 of its members, all Saudi nationals, have been arrested,” the interior ministry said, raising the number of wounded from 81 to 101.
The bomber struck during the main weekly prayers at a mosque in the Shiite-majority city of Qatif.
It is the second mass murder of Shiites in the kingdom since late last year, and locals in the city took to the streets Saturday to protest the attack.
In November gunmen killed seven Shiites including children in the Eastern Province town of Al-Dalwa.
At the time, authorities said the suspects were linked to IS.