Islamic State claims responsibility for Jeddah attack

CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State claimed responsibility on Thursday for an attack on a non-Muslim cemetery in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah which wounded several people, although it did not provide any evidence to back up its claim.

In a statement issued through its official channel on Telegram, the group said that its “soldiers” had managed to hide a homemade bomb in the cemetery on Wednesday that then exploded after several “consuls of crusading countries” gathered there.

The explosion, which occurred during a World War One remembrance ceremony involving foreign embassies, was the second security incident to take place in Jeddah in the last couple of weeks, and the first attack with explosives in years to attempt to hit foreigners in the conservative kingdom.

In a second statement, the Islamic State said they were primarily targeting the French consul general, who attended the ceremony, over what it said was France’s insistence on publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

France’s government has defended the right to publish the cartoons, which are considered blasphemous by Muslims.

On Oct. 18, an Islamic State spokesman called on the militant group’s supporters to target Westerners, oil pipelines and economic infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier on Thursday, unidentified assailants sprayed the Saudi embassy in the Netherlands with gunfire before dawn. No one was hurt in the incident.

Late last month, a knife-wielding Saudi man was arrested after attacking and wounding a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah.

That incident followed the beheading near Paris of a French teacher by a man of Chechen origin who had said he wanted to punish the teacher for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet during a civics lesson.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the teacher, Samuel Paty, a hero, and he pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, saying it was threatening to take over some Muslim communities in France.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy, writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Gareth Jones, Hugh Lawson and Alex Richardson