For the first time a suicide bomber has managed to target a high-profile Saudi royal who has been spearheading a campaign against the Al-Qaeda in his country.
The suicide bomber blew himself up when Prince Muhammad bin Naïf was receiving guests during the customary Ramadan festivities at his residence in Jeddah late on Thursday, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. Prince Muhammad is the son of Prince Naïf bin Abdulaziz, the Interior Minister, who is one of the most high-ranking royals in the kingdom.
According to SPA, the bomber was a wanted man who had previously expressed his wish to surrender. The agency added that the suicide bomber was the only casualty in the attack. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz rushed to hospital to visit the injured Prince who was subsequently discharged.
Analysts say this is the first occasion when a suicide bomber managed to find physical access close to a heavily guarded high ranking member of the royalty since Saudi Arabia became a target of militant attacks eight years ago.
Saudi daily Arab News quoted a statement issued by the Royal Court as saying that the suicide bombing took place at 11.30 p.m. local time on Thursday during a Ramadan reception. “The wanted criminal exploded himself during security inspection,” the statement added. The Arabic Al-Arabiya satellite channel said the bomb, which was fixed to the assailant’s body, exploded when the attacker received a call.
Arab News said King Abdullah raised the question of security lapse, asking Prince Muhammad how the assailant had been allowed in without proper checks.
Observers say the attacker apparently took advantage of a Saudi programme, steered by Prince Muhammad, of rehabilitating Al-Qaeda affiliates who surrender before authorities, by seeking a personal meeting with the Prince.
Prince Muhammad, who is Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Interior Minister, is credited with busting an Al-Qaeda cell, which culminated on August 2 with the arrest of 44 people over a period of one year.