Saudi Arabia arrests 34 suspects in Abha mosque bombing case

About 30 of those detained are Saudi nationals while the other suspects hailed from Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Pakistan

Saudi Arabia has arrested 34 suspects who allegedly helped facilitate a suicide bomb attack on a mosque in the Abha region of the kingdom.

About 30 of those detained are Saudi nationals while the other four are from Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Pakistan, Al Hayat newspaper reported, quoting sources from the interior ministry.

Last week, a 21-year-old Saudi national, Yousif bin Sulaiman bin Abdullah, blew himself up in a mosque used by a special security force unit in Abha, located in the Asir province. The attack, the third to occur this year, killed 15 people while injuring many others.

Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the attack. The hardline Sunni Islamic group has previously carried out suicide bombing attacks in two Shi’ite mosques that killed nearly 25 people.

Although Saudi Arabia’s ruling family and top clerics have publicly denounced the incidents and promised swift retribution, ISIL has found appeal among the country’s radicalised youth.

Last year ISIL’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on all the group’s supporters in the kingdom to launch their own attacks against Shi’ites, governments and westerners instead of travelling to Syria and Iraq.

In another announcement this year, ISIL said that it aimed to drive out all Shi’ites – who it considers heretics – from the Arabian Peninsula and urged young men to join its cause.

These statements have raised concerns of sectarian violence in the kingdom, where there is already mistrust between the majority Sunni and minority Shia populations.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have conducted intensive raids following the incidents, often cracking networks planning more attacks within the GCC.

In July, the kingdom’s security officials arrested 431 people, suspected of belonging to various ISIL cells. Authorities said that these groups were planning attacks on mosques, security prisons and a diplomatic mission.