IS says Saudi bomb attack targeted France over cartoons

Published November 13, 2020, 9:52 AM

by Agence France-Presse

The Islamic State group said Thursday it carried out a bombing against a gathering of diplomats in Saudi Arabia, saying it was to protest French cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Saudi police close a street leading to a non-Muslim cemetery in the Saudi city of Jeddah where a bomb struck a World War I commemoration attended by European diplomats on November 11, 2020, leaving several people wounded amid Muslim anger over French cartoons. (Photo by – / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Wednesday’s attack struck a World War I commemoration at a non-Muslim cemetery in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, wounding at least two people.

It came less than a month after a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah was wounded by a knife-wielding Saudi, amid Muslim fury over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vigorously defended the right to publish cartoons deemed as offensive by some, including of the Prophet, but he has also tried to ease tensions over his remarks.

A statement by IS’s propaganda arm Amaq said the attack “primarily targeted the French consul over his country’s indistance on publishing the cartoons insulting to the Prophet of God”.

An earlier statement by the jihadist group on its Telegram channel said IS fighters had “planted an explosive device in… the cemetery in the city of Jeddah yesterday (Wednesday)”.

The attack was carried out “in support” of the Prophet Mohammed, it added.

Diplomats from France, Greece, Italy, Britain and the United States attended the Armistice Day commemoration ceremony in Jeddah, their embassies said in a statement after the bombing.

They condemned the attack as “cowardly”.

A Greek policeman residing in Saudi Arabia was wounded, a Greek diplomatic source said, and a British citizen was also believed to have been hurt.

A Saudi policeman suffered minor injuries, state-owned Al-Ekhbariya television added, citing the governor of Mecca region, where Jeddah is located.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons were shown by French history teacher Samuel Paty to pupils in a class on free speech, leading to his beheading outside Paris on October 16.

His murder followed an online campaign by parents angry over his choice of lesson material.

Paying tribute to the slain teacher, Macron defended France’s strict brand of secularism and its long tradition of satire. “We will not give up cartoons,” he vowed last month.

And earlier in October he described Islam, in a speech, as being “in crisis” and assailed “Islamist separatism” in parts of France.

Macron’s stance angered many Muslims, prompting huge protests in several countries at which portraits of France’s president were burnt, and a campaign to boycott French products.

But Macron has since tried to assuage Muslim anger.

Last week French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Egypt where he met the head of Al-Azhar, considered the foremost religious institution for Sunni Muslims, try to defuse the furor.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia — home to Islam’s holiest sites — has criticised the cartoons, saying it rejected “any attempt to link Islam and terrorism”.

But Riyadh stopped short of condemning the French leadership.

 
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