RIYADH: A suicide bomber targeted a mosque packed with worshippers, mostly policemen, Thursday in the southern city of Abha killing at least 17 of them, state television El-Ikhbariya reported.
The explosion took place as worshippers were in middle of prayers at a mosque used by Saudi Special Forces in Abha, the broadcaster said, describing it as a “terrorist” attack.
It gave no further details.
A Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed the attack and said, the bomb targeted police trainees from a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit.
The explosion happened at the headquarters of the SWAT team, which is tasked with domestic security, he added.
It was too early to say who may have carried out the attack, he added.
Saudi Arabia has been on alert for attacks by the militant Islamic State (ISIS) group, who have been blamed for killing policemen and for slaughtering members of the minority Shia community.
State media reported that the mosque belongs to an Interior Ministry emergency services post in Abha, which is the provincial capital of Asir.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But blame is likely to fall on ISIS or Daesh, whose local affiliate has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in recent months, including various deadly shootings and smaller attacks against police at checkpoints in the capital Riyadh.
Thursday’s attack was the deadliest against Saudi security forces since Daesh attacks first appeared in the Kingdom last year.
A suicide bomber that struck a mosque in the eastern village of Al Qudeeh in May killed 22 people. That was the deadliest militant assault in the Kingdom in more than a decade, and was followed a week later by another suicide bombing outside another mosque that left four dead.
In November, a gunman opened fire at a Shia mosque in the eastern Saudi village of Al Ahsa, killing eight.
Saudi authorities last month announced the arrest of more than 400 suspects in an anti-terrorism sweep. They said at the time that they had thwarted other Daesh attacks being plotted in the oil-rich Kingdom, including a suicide bomb plot targeting a large mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia that can hold 3,000 worshippers, and attempts to attack other mosques, diplomatic missions and security bodies.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.