An Islamic State (Isis) gunman murdered five people and injured nine others at a Shi'ite meeting hall in the Eastern Province of Saihat in Saudi Arabia, before being shot dead by police yesterday. The attack took place in Hussainiya late on Friday (16 October) in a mainly Shi'ite area of the country.
A previously unrecognised Islamic State (IS) faction based in Bahrain claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on Twitter late at night on Friday night. It said: "With the approval of God Almighty, the soldier of the caliphate Shuja al-Dosari, may God accept him, set his Kalashnikov upon one of the apostate polytheists' temples."
Worshippers were said to have been observing rituals related to the occasion of Ashoura – which marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussein bin Ali, Prophet Mohammed's grandson – when an assailant approached in a taxi, which was stopped at a checkpoint manned by volunteers. Police arrived and a gun battle broke out leaving the shooter dead, along with five others.
The attacker, believed to be in his 20s was killed at the scene according to government-run channel, Al Ekhbariya TV. Saudi authorities say they have arrested two further suspects.
IS believe that Shi'ite Muslims are apostates who deserve to be killed, as Shi'ite Muslims prayer to saints as well as directly to their diety Allah. In recent times, groups of volunteer security guards have been formed around Shia holy sites in the region to protect them from attacks. IS has launched a series of deadly assaults inside Saudi Arabia aiming to stir confrontation between Shia and Sunni muslims.
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This is the fourth attack targeting adherents of the Shia in the region since the beginning of 2014. The mainly-Sunni Saudi authorities have been criticised by some local activists who have claimed that the nation is not doing enough to prevent the attacks. In August, a suicide bomber killed 15 people in an attack on a mosque used by members of a local security force.
In July Saudi authorities said they had rounded up 431 IS suspects and had foiled plots to attack places of worship. In November last year, eight people were killed in the Eastern province of Al Ahsa, when gunmen attacked a Shia community centre and another bombing of a Shia mosque in Kuwait in June this year killed 27 people, was also claimed by ISIS.