A terror attack has targeted a World War I commemoration event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, resulting in several people wounded and widespread panic.
The ceremony was attended by Western diplomats on the occasion of European countries observing Armistice day or Remembrance day, November 11, which this year marks 102 years since the end of the war.
Consular officials representing several embassies, including France, Britain, Italy and Greece were in attendance when the bomb went off. The event was being held at a non-Muslim cemetery and is suspected related to prior attacks on French soil over satirical cartoons depicting Islam's founder Mohammed.
France's foreign ministry described that an unknown entity or individual had planted an improvised explosive device (IED) at the cemetery grounds. "The annual ceremony commemorating the end of World War I at the non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, attended by several consulates, including that of France, was the target of an IED (improvised explosive device) attack this morning, which injured several people," the statement said.
Multiple European embassies in Saudi Arabia condemned what they called the "shameful" and "cowardly attack". It doesn't appear any diplomatic officials were among the wounded; but a Greek police officer that was present suffered wounds, as well as Saudi policeman, according to Saudi media reports.
Saudi-based journalist reports 15 people wounded in an attack this morning at the cemetery for non-Muslims in Jeddah, during a ceremony in which the Consul-General of France and French citizens were in attendance. https://t.co/9WziWyxyob— Alison Meuse (@AliTahmizian) November 11, 2020
Local journalists later indicated that up to 15 may be injured from the blast or ensuing panic.
Eyewitness accounts cited in Saudi media included the following:
The bomb triggered panic as it went off while the French consul was delivering a speech at the ceremony, according to eyewitness Nadia Chaaya.
"At the end of the speech we heard an explosion. We didn't quite understand it at first, but we then realized that we were the target," Chaaya told France's BFMTV.
"We were panicking and feared there could be a second explosion. We left the cemetery and went out into the street and everyone went their separate ways."
Such terror attacks inside Saudi Arabia on Western targets remain relatively rare, and signal domestic groups are likely stepping up efforts to sow chaos inside the kingdom, potentially disrupting Riyadh's economic and diplomatic initiatives with the West.
Weeks ago a guard protecting the French consulate in Jeddah was injured during a knife attack which appeared "retaliation" for controversial statements made by President Emmanuel Macron in the wake of terrorism targeting French citizens.