Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged Thursday to strike extremists with an “iron fist”, a day after a bombing attack on a gathering of Western diplomats was claimed by the Islamic State group.
A bomb blast hit a World War I commemoration at a non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah on Wednesday, just two weeks after a guard at the French consulate in the Red Sea city was wounded by a Saudi citizen armed with ‘a knife.
The attacks, which highlight Muslims ‘fury over French satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, come as Saudi Arabia prepares for the G20 leaders’ summit later this month – the first to be hosted by an Arab nation .
“We will continue to confront all extremist behavior and ideas,” Prince Mohammed said in an address to the Shura Council, the government’s main advisory body.
“We will continue to strike with an iron fist all those who want to undermine our security and stability,” he said, according to the transcript of his speech released by the official Saudi press agency.
Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, warned those seeking to commit jihadist acts of “painful and severe retribution”.
Wednesday’s attack in Jeddah left at least two injured, including a Greek policeman and a Saudi official.
A British citizen was also reportedly injured.
Diplomats from France, Greece, Italy, Britain and the United States attended the Armistice Day commemoration ceremony in Jeddah, their embassies said, condemning the attack as “cowardly.” .
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday, saying it was a protest against the cartoons printed by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
A statement from ISIS propaganda arm Amaq said the attack “was primarily aimed at the French consul”.
The group has provided no evidence of its involvement.
In another incident in the aftermath of the Jeddah attack, Dutch police arrested a man as several shots were fired at the Saudi embassy in The Hague, causing damage but no injuries.
It was not clear whether Thursday’s incident was linked to attacks in the kingdom.
– ‘Extreme vigilance’ –
The French Embassy in Riyadh, for its part, urged its nationals in Saudi Arabia to show “extreme vigilance”.
The warning followed an attack on the Jeddah consulate on October 29, the same day a man armed with a knife killed three people in a church in Nice, southern France.
French President Emmanuel Macron has vigorously defended the right to publish cartoons, but he has also tried to appease Muslim fury over his comments.
Macron’s position sparked protests in several countries in which portraits of the French president were burned and a campaign to boycott French products.
Saudi Arabia – home to Islam’s holiest sites – criticized the cartoons, saying it rejects “any attempt to link Islam and terrorism.”
In his speech, Prince Mohammed said he hopes “the world will stop attacking religious symbols under the slogan of free speech” because it creates a “fertile environment for extremism and terrorism”.
Saudi Arabia, long accused of exporting its ultra-conservative Sunni Wahhabist doctrine around the world, is itself the victim of internal terrorist attacks.
Prince Mohammed, who pledged in 2017 to return Saudi Arabia to “open and moderate Islam,” sought to roll back the influence of the ultra-conservative religious establishment.
“Extremism is no longer tolerated in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Prince Mohammed said in his speech.
The heir to the throne has curbed the influence of the once powerful religious police, as it allows mixed music concerts, cinemas, and other entertainment options that appeal to a predominantly young population.
But simultaneously, the prince launched a radical crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression, arresting activists, clerics, journalists and members of the royal family.
Saudi Arabia is also grappling with an economic downturn marked by the coronavirus, which has triggered unpopular austerity measures, including tripling its value-added tax and the suspension of a monthly allowance for employees of the State.
While acknowledging the “great pain” caused by the austerity campaign, Prince Mohammed referred to the government’s efforts to increase unemployment and tackle endemic corruption.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)