Saudi Shias vowed to continue commemorations of Ashura, among the holiest occasions for their religion, even following five people were killed by a gunman in a attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, at one of their assemblies.
The assault in Eastern Province’s Qatif place of Friday was the latest in a series of shootings and bombings linked to the Sunni extremist group in Saudi Arabia within the past year.
A suspect having an automatic weapon “started to shoot randomly” at a Shia place of worship in the Saihat region of Qatif city in the evening, an interior ministry representative said in a statement.
Nine others were wounded and five Saudis, including a lady, were killed, he explained.
“Infidels will not be safe in the island of Mohammed,” it warned.
Most previous assaults in Sunni-dominated the minority Shia community which often complains of marginalisation has been targeted by Saudi Arabia.
A video, allegedly of the attack, posted on YouTube revealed terrified people, among them many children, running anxiously for cover while gun shots might be heard.
Ali al-Bahrani who witnessed the attack stated the gunman was shooting at random attended a sermon.
The Ashura commemorations — which peak late next week — mark the killing of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, by the military. That occasion lies at the center of the split of Islam into Shia and Sunni sects.
“She was about to graduate from university as a doctor. Now she’s a martyr, and that is even better,” he said.
“People are pouring in to congratulate her parents,” said Abbad.
He echoed other Shias saying such attacks “won’t dissuade us from continuing to observe our rites”.
Nasema al-Sada, an activist from Eastern Province, said that because the beginning of Ashura volunteers have set up checkpoints at the entrances to places of worship in coordination with authorities.
Residents from the city of Dammam, where Shias are not allowed to build places of worship, come to attend sermons which take place regularly during Ashura, said Sada.
Witnesses said the Shiaplace called an adjoining mosque and a husseiniya were both targeted in the shooting of Friday.
“We are living in a place made from paper, which could catch fire any minute.”
“People are angry. And these strikes will only make us more attached to our rituals,” she said.
“People can’t stop us from practising our beliefs.”
Security has been tightened at Shia facilities when 25 people were killed by different suicide mosque bombings.
IS, which considers Shia to be heretics claimed both attacks.
During Ashura last year, gunmen killed seven Shia worshippers, including children, in the eastern town of AlDalwa.
The interior ministry said the episode that was unprecedented had links to IS — which has also targeted police that were Saudi.
Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Gulf neighbours last year joined a United States-led military coalition that’s bombing IS in Syria and Iraq where the extremists have set up an Islamic “caliphate”.
In July, Saudi Arabia said it’d broken up an IS- arrested more than 430 suspects involved in assaults and plots and linked network.
Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, branded IS as an enemy of Islam earlier Friday.
“The reality is they are shedding Muslim blood and destroying Islam. There is no good included,” he said during weekly prayers in the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh.