An ISIS gunman attacked a Shia mosque in Saihat, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, late on Friday, October 16, killing five people and injuring nine, before the security forces shot the attacker dead.
The attack took place in a Hussainiya, where worshipers were observing rituals related to the occasion of Ashoura, which marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussein bin Ali, Prophet Mohammed's grandson in the Battle of Karbala in the year 680.
A new ISIS branch, which calls itself the Province of Bahrain, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on Twitter late at night on Friday. This is the first time this branch is mentioned publicly.
“With the approval of God Almighty, the soldier of the caliphate Shuja al-Dosari, may God accept him, set his Kalashnikov upon one of the apostate polytheists’ temples,” said a translation of the statement published by Reuters.
A copy of the announcement was quickly shared online, like here by this ISIS sympathiser, who rejoiced at the attack:
— حُـمِآة آلَمِكآرمِ (@dolte_dolte14) October 16, 2015
A Caliphate soldier embedded himself in a temple for apostate polytheists!
Twitter users also shared the news and images of the attacker (Warning: graphic image):
— قناة الإخبارية (@alekhbariyatv) October 16, 2015
Al Ekhbariya TV’s source: A gunman who opened fire on the Saihat Hussainiya is believed to be mentally disturbed, and he was is his 20s.
Saudi security forces arrested two suspects linked with the incident, Al-Arabiya English reports.
An eyewitness, who would like to remain anonymous, told Global Voices Online what he saw:
عند توجهي الى الحسينية الحيدرية مررنا بكوادر التفتيش كالمعتاد وكانت نقطتين وكانت الامور مطمئنة وفي يقظة وجدية من الشباب وكانت الساعة تقريباً السابعة مساء وبعد الدخول الى الساحة الخارجية من الحسنية من الخلف وكنت واقف عند احد المضائف اشرب ماء
سمعنا اطلاقات متكررة والناس تنسحب للخلف الى بين البيوت … بعدها هدأ الوضع كم دقيقة والكل مابين مصدق وشاك في الموضوع ونحن كنا في الشارع الخلفي المقابل لبيت المتواجدات فيه النساء وتم معاودة الضرب العشوائي ورأيت الرصاص بعيني وتخبأنا مرة اخرى بين السيارات وانسحبنا الى داخل حي الكوثر بين البيوت
When I was going to Al-Haydria Hussainiya, I crossed two checkpoints at around 7 p.m. Everything was fine. After we entered the Hussainiya from the back door, I was waiting outside while drinking water, and it was when I heard repeated shots. People started leaving the site after the attack. The situation calmed down for a few minutes after the attack as people were in shock between believing and denying what had just happened. I was next to the house where women were gathered, then the attack occurred again. I’ve seen the bullets and we hid in between cars. After that we retreated into homes in the Kawthar neighbourhood.
Qatif Direct shared a video from the aftermath of the shooting on Twitter:
بالفيديو: جانب من إطلاق النار على مسجد الحمزة في سيهات. https://t.co/cfQBFycCAH
— القطيف مباشر (@QatifDirect) October 16, 2015
Video: Scenes from the shooting on Alhamza Mosque, in Saihat
Mohammed Alqattan says his brother, Khalid, was shot in the attack. He shares a photograph of a man in a hospital bed being treated for what appears to be a wound in the leg:
— mohmmad alqattan (@mgnoonk650) October 16, 2015
My brother Khalid was injured in the shooting in Saihat by ISIS gunman.
Relatives of those killed in the attack shared their stories on Twitter in remembrance of the victims. Mohammed Shaker Busaleh shared a photograph of his cousin after his death. Father of Abdulsattar Abusaleh Busaleh says he is honoured his son was martyred in this Twitter video:
— د. صادق الجبران (@DrSadeqMohamed) October 16, 2015
Mohammed Al-Mahfoodh, an Islamic scholar, insisted the true killer in Saihat was the sectarian rhetoric:
القاتل الحقيقي في سيهات ليس مطلق الرصاص وانما هو من حرض طائفيا ومارس الاساءة الطائفية. #شهداء_سيهات
— محمد محفوظ (@almahfoodh20) October 17, 2015
The real killer in Saihat is not who opened fire, but the one who incited the sectarianism and practice it.
Saudi liberal author Turki al-Hamad called for a reconsideration of public speech about the issue:
الإرهاب في المملكة لم يعد قضية جانبية بل هو قضية حياة أو موت،حياة مجتمع ودولة،لا ينفع معها أنصاف الحلول،لا بد من مراجعة كاملة لكل خطاباتنا.
— Turki H. Alhamad (@TurkiHAlhamad1) October 16, 2015
Terrorism in Saudi Arabia is no longer a side issue; it is a matter of life or death. The life of society and the state, does not work with half-solutions. There must be a full review of all our speeches.
Saudi cleric Sayyed Hassan Al-Nemer called on people to go to mosques and hussainiya to send a message to ISIS:
— السيد حسن النمر (@alnemernet) October 16, 2015
We urge all the believers to intensify their presence in mosques and Hussainiyas. This will be the most fitting response to those cowardly terrorists.
Fahad Al-Deghaither, a weekly writer at Al Hayat newspaper, said ISIS’ actions were having a unifying effect on society:
#اطلاق_نار_في_سيهات على قبح أعمال الدواعش وطغيانهم إلا أنهم ومع كل جريمة يقدمون عليها يزيدون من قوة الوحدة الوطنية في المملكة.. ونعم الشعب
— فهد الدغيثر (@F_Deghaither) October 16, 2015
Despite the ugliness of the work of Daesh and their insolence, with all the crime that they commit they will increase and strengthen the national unity in the Kingdom ..
Emtithal Abualsaud, an activist, asked at what point the force of the law should be applied against sectarianism:
— امتثال أبو السعود (@EmtithalAbuAlsa) October 16, 2015
How long will this [Mohammad Al-Barrak] and his likes remain unpunished?! It is not enough a 40 people killed because of sectarianism so far?!
Abualsaud shares a screenshot of a tweet by Saudi clergyman Mohammed Al Barrak, which reads:
Shiites are a minority in our country who differ with us in religion and its principles. Their practice of their religious rituals is an attack on Islam and its great personalities. They should be prevented from practicing their rituals.
According to human right activist Waleed Sulais, the total number of Shiites who have been killed by ISIS in Saudi Arabia since last year is 40.
شهداء التحريض الطائفي من السعوديين الشيعة منذ ١٤٣٦/١/١٠ – الدالوة :٨ – القديح :٢٣ – العنود : ٤ – سيهات :٥ المجموع : ٤٠ #اطلاق_نار_في_سيهات
— وليد سليس (@WaleedSulais) October 16, 2015
The martyrs of sectarian incitement among Saudis stands at 40. Eight in Al Dalalwa; 23 in Al Qudaih; four in Al Anoud and five in Saihat.
This is the fourth attack targeting adherents of the Shia in the region. Last year, in November, eight people were killed in the Eastern province of Al Ahsa, when gunmen attacked a Shia community centre, in Al Dalalwa. The Al-Qaeda affiliate, ISIS, claimed responsibility for two following attacks in the Eastern Province, one in Qatif, in Qudaih, killing 23 worshippers, and the second in Al Anoud, in Dammam, which killed four people. Another bombing of a Shia mosque in Kuwait in June 2015, which killed 27 people, was also claimed by ISIS.