July 4, 2016


[The Islamic State has heaped scorn on Saudi Arabia and its royal family in recent years and has staged numerous attacks inside the kingdom, mostly targeting Shiite mosques and Saudi security personnel.]

By Ben Hubbard
Police officers stood guard near the United States Consulate in Jidda, Saudi Arabia,
after a suicide bomber detonated explosives Monday morning.
Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
BEIRUT, Lebanon — A suicide bomber detonated explosives near a United States diplomatic mission in western Saudi Arabia on Monday, and neighboring Kuwait said it had arrested a number of people suspected of planning Islamic State-inspired attacks, according to officials in both countries.

The developments in the two Persian Gulf nations followed a bloody week in which the largest cities of three predominantly Muslim countries were targeted in terrorist attacks that caused mass casualties: Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Baghdad, and it is suspected of carrying out the one in Istanbul.

The attack and the arrests on Monday came amid fears that extremists had planned further violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and for the Eid al-Fitr festival that celebrates its conclusion this week.

The Saudi attack took place early Monday when security officers confronted a man acting suspiciously near the United States Consulate in the coastal city of Jidda. He detonated his explosives, killing himself and wounding two guards, according to a report by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The United States Embassy in Riyadh, the capital, said in a statement that none of its consular staff members in Jidda had been wounded, and it warned American citizens to limit nonessential travel to the kingdom and to remain cautious inside it.

The Islamic State has heaped scorn on Saudi Arabia and its royal family in recent years and has staged numerous attacks inside the kingdom, mostly targeting Shiite mosques and Saudi security personnel.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast on Monday, and the bomber has not been identified.

An attack by Al Qaeda on the same consulate in 2004 left five staff members and four gunmen dead.

In Kuwait, officials announced the arrest of four people accused of plotting two attacks in the country and said they had repatriated a Kuwaiti family who had joined the Islamic State in Syria, according to a statement published by the state-run KUNA news agency.

One of the suspects is a young Kuwaiti man who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and was planning to bomb a mosque during Eid al-Fitr, the report said.

The man said after his arrest that he had received instructions from an Islamic State operative abroad, the agency reported, to send a young recruit with no security record to obtain explosives and guns for the attack.

Two Kuwaitis and a man from an unspecified Asian country were arrested in the second plot and were found to have two assault rifles, ammunition and the black flag of the Islamic State, the report said.

Kuwait also said it had arrested and repatriated a Kuwaiti man who had joined the Islamic State in Syria, as well as his mother and son.

The man had studied petroleum engineering in Britain and had moved to Syria to work in oil production for the Islamic State after his older brother was killed while fighting for the group in Iraq, the report said.

The report did not say when the arrests had taken place.

Kuwait is a predominately Sunni country, but Sunnis and Shiites live together with little of the sectarian tensions seen in other Persian Gulf nations.

An Islamic State suicide attack on a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City killed 27 a year ago. The bomber was a Saudi citizen.

Follow Ben Hubbard on Twitter @NYTBen.