• IN SAUDI ARABIA’S RED SEA

    Suicide bombing near US consulate

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    RIYADH: A suicide bomber blew himself up near the United States consulate in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah in the early hours of Monday, the interior ministry said.

    Security officers became suspicious of a man near the parking lot of Dr Suleiman Faqeeh Hospital, which is directly across from the US diplomatic mission.

    When they moved in to investigate “he blew himself up with a suicide belt inside the hospital parking” at around 2:15 a.m. (2315 GMT Sunday), the ministry said, adding that two security officers were lightly injured.

    A picture carried by the Sabq online newspaper, which is close to authorities, appeared to show a large body part lying on the ground between a taxi and the open door of another car, peppered with shrapnel holes.

    The blast happened shortly before the dawn prayers after which Muslims begin their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Saudi state news channel Al-Ekhbaria said there was a mosque nearby.

    The incident occurred on July 4, which is the American Independence Day holiday.

    Investigators are trying to identify the culprit, the interior ministry added.

    In Washington, a State Department spokesman, who declined to be named, said: “We are aware of reports of an explosion in Jeddah and working with Saudi authorities to collect more information. We can confirm that all personnel under chief-of-mission authority are accounted for at this time.”

    There was no immediate word on who was responsible, but since late 2014 Saudi Arabian security officers and minority Shiites have been hit by deadly violence claimed by the Islamic State group.

    In March last year the US embassy closed its main office, as well as consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran, for a few days over unspecified “security concerns.”

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