Four security officers have been killed and five others wounded in a suicide attack outside one of Islam’s holiest sites, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said.
The bombing at the Prophet’s Mosque in the city of Medina was the third attack to hit the kingdom on Monday, following blasts in the cities of Jeddah and Qatif.
Photos of Medina posted on social media showed smoke billowing from a fire outside the mosque where Prophet Muhammad is buried.
“Four security guards were martyred and five others wounded as a result of their opposition to the suicide attacker who detonated explosives near them as he was on his way to the mosque,” the ministry said on Twitter.
What motivated the bombings in Saudi Arabia?
The blast struck moments before sunset prayers when people were breaking their fast inside the mosque.
The mosque, which is also known as Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, is visited by pilgrims from around the world during the final days of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Qari Ziyaad Patel, 36, from South Africa, was at the mosque when he heard the blast just as the call to prayer was ending.
He said many at first thought it was the sound of traditional, celebratory cannon fire, but then he felt the ground shake.
“The vibrations were very strong,” Patel told the AP news agency. “It sounded like a building imploded.”
Saudi Arabia’s state-run news channel, Al-Ekhbariya, broadcast live video of thousands of worshippers praying inside the mosque hours after the explosion.
The mosque is considered to be Islam’s second holiest site after the Sacred Mosque, or Masjid-al-Haram, which surrounds the Kaaba in the city of Mecca.