Middle East

Saudi Arabian mosque hit by bomb attack

Damaged cars are seen after a car exploded near a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia's Dammam 29 May 2015. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A suicide bomber blew himself up in a car park outside the mosque

A bomb has exploded outside a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia, reportedly killing at least four people.

Officials said that a suicide bomber blew up a car in the city of Dammam in Eastern Province.

The Islamic State (IS) group has said that it was behind the attack in a statement released on social media.

At least 21 people were killed in a similar incident one week ago, when a suicide bomber struck during Friday prayers at a Shia mosque.

The attack at the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh was the first to be claimed by the Saudi branch of IS, which was formally established last November.

In Dammam on Friday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive device outside the al-Anoud mosque in a busy neighbourhood.

Islamic State's strategy, by the BBC's Arab Affairs Editor Sebastian Usher

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The attacks come amid wider regional tensions in the Middle East

The two suicide bombs in seven days against Shia mosques are intended to inflame sectarian tension, the same tactic that IS uses in Iraq and elsewhere.

With a Saudi air campaign against Shia rebels in Yemen and a ratcheting up of the confrontation between the Saudis and Iran across the region, the jihadists are seizing the opportunity to sow more hatred.

Hardline Saudi preachers have long denounced the Shia, and that rhetoric has only grown fiercer. The Shia have called on the authorities to stem the flow of hate speech.

King Salman has promised to crush the militants and many Saudis have been expressing their solidarity with the Shia.

IS still has a very long way to go in its aim of destabilising Saudi Arabia through its sectarian divide, but it is using the only method it knows - sectarian violence.

A witness told Reuters news agency that he had seen a "quick explosion" and that he had been told that men had prevented the attacker from getting inside the mosque.

Security forces had become suspicious of a man in a car near the mosque and had gone to investigate it. It exploded as they approached the vehicle, according to the Saudi Press Agency, SPA.

One of those killed is believed to have been the driver of the car.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption This is the second attack on a Shia mosque in this region in a week
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption IS has said it was behind both attacks

In a statement published online, IS said "a soldier of the Caliphate" was behind the attack on the Shia community. It identified the bomber as Abu Jandal al-Jazrawi.

Saudi Arabia has previously been threatened by IS. It is part of a US-led coalition against IS in Syria and Iraq.

The Saudis are also leading a coalition of Arab states in an air campaign against Shia rebels in Yemen.

The country's large Shia Muslim minority is mainly based in the Eastern Province, and there have been sporadic protests by Shia there to call for more rights.