Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly suicide attack on Saudi mosque

At least 21 dead and 81 wounded in bombing of Shiite mosque by Saudi Arabian citizen, marking the militant's first strike on the country since 2004

Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia, warning that more “black days” loom ahead in a direct challenge to the rulers of the Sunni kingdom.

Friday’s attack was the kingdom’s deadliest militant assault since a 2004 al-Qaeda attack on foreign worker compounds, which sparked a massive Saudi security force crackdown. However, this Islamic State attack in the village of al-Qudeeh in the eastern Qatif region targeted Shiites, whom ultra-conservatives in Saudi Arabia regularly denounce as heretics.

The statement on Islamic State’s al-Bayan radio station, read aloud on Friday night and posted on Saturday morning to militant websites associated with the extremists, identified the suicide bomber as a Saudi citizen with the nom de guerre Abu Amer al-Najdi. The station also identified the attack as being carried out by a new Islamic State branch in “Najd Province,” referring to the historic region of the central Arabian Peninsula home to the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The mosque attack killed at least 21 people and wounded 81, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Islamic State – formerly al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq which broke away and overran much of that country and neighbouring Syria – has become notorious for its attacks on Shiites, including a deadly Shiite mosque bombing in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, that killed more than 130 people. It was blamed for the killing of eight Shiites in a mosque shooting in eastern Saudi Arabia in November.

The al-Bayan message warned Shiites of coming “black days that will hurt you,” pledging to expel all Shiites from the Arabian Peninsula.

The attack comes as Saudi Arabia is part of a US-led coalition targeting Islamic State. In late April, Saudi officials arrested 93 people they said were involved in an Islamic State plot to attack the US Embassy and other targets.

There already are heightened Sunni-Shiite tensions in the region as Saudi Arabia and Shiite power Iran back opposite sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.