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By Observer Staff
Wire Sources 

Several Bombings Mar Ramadan in Jeddah, Qatif, Medina

Even Saudi Arabia unable to control radical Islamic violence

 

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Multiple bombings rocked the Arab world's richest country Monday, as violence against innocent Muslims continues to mar the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. CNN reports that four people were killed in the latest bombing in Mecca.

State run Saudi news websites say an explosion occurred just outside one of Islam's holiest sites in the city of Medina, the same day that two suicide bombers struck different cities in Saudi Arabia.

Sabq news site reported that the explosion took place Monday evening. Other sites showed images of what appeared to be a fire outside one of the buildings overlooking the Prophet's Mosque. It was not immediately clear if anyone was killed or wounded.

The sprawling mosque where the Prophet Muhammad is buried is visited by millions of Muslims from around the world each year during pilgrimages to Mecca. The area would have been teeming with pilgrims seeking to pray during the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends this week.

The Interior Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment. The Saudi's are proud of their role as custodians of the holiest sites in Islam. At the same time, the millions of Moslem pilgrims who come for the Haj each year, present a security and crowd control problem for the Kingdom.

A resident in the largely Shiite eastern Saudi Arabian region of Qatif says a suicide bomber and a car bomb have struck a neighborhood there, but that no injuries were immediately reported.

Mohammed al-Nimr told The Associated Press the bomber detonated his suicide vest Monday evening when most residents of the neighborhood were at home breaking the Ramadan fast.

Qatif is heavily populated by Shiites, who are a minority in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. Al-Nimr says that near the body of a suicide bomber was a car bomb that also went off around the same time.

The attacks struck next to a Shiite mosque. The Islamic State of Iraq an Syria (ISIS) has in the past attacked Shiite places of worship in Qatif.

Another suicide bomber carried out an attack early on Monday near a U.S. diplomatic site in the western Saudi city of Jiddah, according to the Interior Ministry.

The ministry said the attacker detonated his suicide vest when security guards approached him near the parking lot of a hospital. The attacker died and two security men were wounded with minor injuries, according to the ministry statement, which was published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. Some cars in the parking lot were damaged.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki was quoted in the statement as saying the attacker caught the attention of the security guards, who noticed he was acting suspiciously at an intersection located on the corner of the heavily fortified U.S. Consulate in Jiddah, located by the Dr. Soliman Fakeeh Hospital. Most of the consulate's staff had reportedly moved offices to a new location.

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia confirmed there were no casualties or injuries among the consular staff. The embassy said it remains in contact with Saudi authorities as they investigate the attack.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for attack.

The Interior Ministry did not specify if it there are indications the bomber intended to target the U.S. diplomatic compound, saying an investigation was underway to determine his identity.

A 2004 al Qaeda-linked militant attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah killed five locally hired consular employees and four gunmen. The three-hour battle on the compound came amid a wave of al Qaeda attacks targeting Westerners and Saudi security posts.

More recently, Saudi Arabia has been a target of ISIS attacks that have killed dozens of people. The extremist Sunni group views the Western-allied Saudi monarchy and government as heretics. Saudi Arabia is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

In June, the Interior Ministry reported 26 terror attacks had taken place in the Kingdom over the last two years. Local affiliates of the ISIS group have targeted minority Shiites and security officials.

Monday's attack comes just days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which observant Muslims fast daily from dawn to dusk.

The U.S. Embassy regularly issues advisory messages for U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia. In a message issued Sunday and another one issued after the attack Monday, the embassy urged Americans to "remain aware of their surroundings, and take extra precautions when traveling throughout the country." It also advised citizens to "carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia."

Reasons for Dissent in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia conducts dozens of executions each year, mainly for murder and drug smuggling, although there are people who have been executed for deserting Islam and crimes against the Faisal bin Musaid. The method of execution is normally beheading in public. For example, Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr was arrested in 2012 when he was 17 years old for taking part in an anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia during the Arab Spring. In May 2014, Ali al-Nimr was sentenced to be publicly beheaded and crucified.

In 2013, the government deported thousands of non-Saudis, many of them who were working illegally in the country or had overstayed their visas. Many reports abound, of foreigner workers being tortured either by employers or others. This resulted in many basic services suffering from a lack of workers, as many Saudi Arabian citizens are not keen on working in blue collar jobs.

Saudi Arabia has a "Counter-Radicalization Program" the purpose of which is to "combat the spread and appeal of extremist ideologies among the general populous" and to "instill the true values of the Islamic faith, such as tolerance and moderation."

This "tolerance and moderation" has been called into question by the Baltimore Sun, based on the reports from Amnesty International regarding Raif Badawi,[198] and in the case of a man from Hafr al-Batin sentenced to death for rejecting Islam.

In September 2015, Faisal bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, has been elected Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council panel that appoints independent experts. In January 2016, Saudi Arabia executed the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr who had called for pro-democracy demonstrations and for free elections in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's Record on Human Rights Less Than Stellar

Saudi Arabia is widely accused of having one of the worst human rights records in the world. Human rights issues that have attracted strong criticism include the extremely disadvantaged position of women, capital punishment for homosexuality, religious discrimination, the lack of religious freedom and the activities of the religious police.

Between 1996 and 2000, Saudi Arabia acceded to four UN human rights conventions and, in 2004, the government approved the establishment of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), staffed by government employees, to monitor their implementation. To date, the activities of the NSHR have been limited and doubts remain over its neutrality and independence.

Western-based organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemn both the Saudi criminal justice system and its severe punishments. There are no jury trials in Saudi Arabia and courts observe few formalities. Human Rights Watch, in a 2008 report, noted that a criminal procedure code had been introduced for the first time in 2002, but it lacked some basic protections and, in any case, had been routinely ignored by judges.

Those arrested are often not informed of the crime of which they are accused or given access to a lawyer and are subject to abusive treatment and torture if they do not confess. At trial, there is a presumption of guilt and the accused is often unable to examine witnesses and evidence or present a legal defense. Most trials are held in secret.

An example of sentencing is that UK pensioner and cancer victim Karl Andree, aged 74, faced 360 lashes for home brewing alcohol. He was later released due to intervention by British government.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the very few countries in the world not to accept the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In response to the continuing criticism of its human rights record, the Saudi government points to the special Islamic character of the country, and asserts that this justifies a different social and political order.[184] The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom had unsuccessfully[185] urged President Barack Obama to raise human rights concerns with King Abdullah on his March 2014 visit to the Kingdom especially the imprisonments of Sultan Hamid Marzooq al-Enezi, Saud Falih Awad al-Enezi, and Raif Badawi.[186]

 

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