DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A suicide bomber carried out an attack early Monday near a U.S. diplomatic site in the western Saudi city of Jiddah, according to the Interior Ministry.
The ministry said in a statement the attacker detonated his suicide vest when security guards approached him near the parking lot of a hospital. The attacker died and two security men were wounded with minor injuries, according to the statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. Some cars in the parking lot were damaged.
Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said in the statement the attacker caught the attention of the security guards, who noticed he was acting suspiciously at an intersection located on the corner of the heavily fortified U.S. consulate in Jiddah, located by the Dr. Soliman Fakeeh Hospital. Most of the consulate’s staff had reportedly moved offices to a new location.
The Interior Ministry did not specify if the attacker was intending to target the U.S. diplomatic compound, saying an investigation was underway to determine his identity.
U.S. Embassy officials in Saudi Arabia could not be immediately reached for comment. A State Department spokesperson, who was not authorized to be named and spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. officials are aware of reports of an explosion in Jiddah and are working with Saudi authorities to collect more information.
A 2004 al-Qaida-linked militant attack on the U.S. consulate in Jiddah killed five locally hired consular employees and four gunmen. The three-hour battle on the compound came amid a wave of al-Qaida attacks targeting Westerners and Saudi security posts.
More recently, Saudi Arabia has been a target of Islamic State group attacks that have killed dozens of people. The extremist group views the Western-allied Saudi monarchy and government as heretics. Saudi Arabia is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the IS group in Iraq and Syria.
In June, the Interior Ministry reported 26 terror attacks had taken place in the kingdom in the last two years. Local affiliates of the IS group have targeted minority Shiites and security officials.
The attack comes just days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in which observant Muslims fast daily from dawn to dusk.
The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh regularly issues advisory messages for U.S. citizens in Saudi Arabia. On Sunday, the embassy issued a message reminding anyone taking part in religious rituals or other public events to be aware of their surroundings. The message urged Americans to “remain aware of their surroundings, and take extra precautions when travelling throughout the country.” It also advised citizens to “carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia.”
Associated Press writer Douglass Daniel contributed to this report from Washington.