RIYADH: A deadly suicide bombing near Islam’s second-holiest site in the Saudi city of Medina sparked condemnation across the Muslim world Tuesday, with even the Taliban and Hezbollah denouncing the attack.
Four people were killed in the bombing near the Prophet’s Mosque that came as Muslims prepared for this week’s Eid’l Fitr festival marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The attack near the mosque—where the Prophet Mohammed is buried and which attracts millions of pilgrims each year—was one of three in the Sunni-ruled kingdom on Monday.
There were no claims of responsiblity for the bombings in Medina, Jeddah and the eastern city of Qatif, but the Islamic State group had urged its supporters to carry out attacks during Ramadan.
The Sunni extremists have claimed or been blamed for a wave of shootings and bombings during Ramadan, including in Orlando, Bangladesh, Istanbul and Baghdad.
The Saudi interior ministry said officers became suspicious of a man heading for the mosque through a parking lot.
“As they tried to stop him, he blew himself up with an explosive belt causing his death and the death of four police,” it said, adding five others were wounded.
The targeting of Medina caused shock and outrage across Islam’s religious divide.
Shiite power Iran called for Muslim unity and the Afghan Taliban branded it “gruesome.”
“There are no more red lines left for terrorists to cross. Sunnis, Shiites will both remain victims unless we stand united as one,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.
The Taliban said it “condemns this incident in the strongest of terms and considers it an act of enmity and hatred toward Islamic rituals.”
Lebanon-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah—which Riyadh accuses of supporting “terrorist acts” in the region—also denounced it as “a new sign of the terrorists’ contempt for all that Muslims consider sacred.”The United Nations said it was an attack on all Muslims.
“The significance of this attack cannot simply be measured in terms of the four policemen who were reported to have been killed, and the physical damage. It is an attack on the religion itself,” said UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville.
The head of the Saudi Shura Council, Saudi Arabia’s main government advisory body, called it “unprecedented”.
“This crime, which causes goosebumps, could not have been perpetrated by someone who had an atom of belief in his heart,” said Abdullah al-Sheikh.
Cairo-based Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, stressed “the sanctity of the houses of God, especially the Prophet’s Mosque.”
Middle East expert Madhawi al-Rasheed said the attack appeared aimed at humiliating Saudi Arabia, the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites.
“It’s an attempt to actually embarrass the Saudi government because it boasts of protecting the pilgrims and the holy places,” said Rasheed, a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore.