The non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was targeted by an explosion on Wednesday November 11 as many Western diplomats commemorate November 11, 1918. An explosive device was reportedly sent over the enclosure wall, injuring at least one Greek consular employee and one Saudi policeman. A Briton was also reportedly injured, without the information having been officially confirmed.
→ CONTEXT. Saudi Arabia: attack targets November 11 ceremony in Jeddah
A security flaw in Jeddah
Among the diplomats present, the French. This is the second time in nearly two weeks that the French consulate in Jeddah has been the target of a terrorist attack. On October 29, a man attacked a consulate security employee with a knife, hours after the attack in Nice, France. “The terrorist was dressed as a pilgrim. He presented himself for a visa application on the intercom and when he came back he attacked the guard ”, says Clarence Rodriguez, correspondent in Saudi Arabia for 12 years. According to her, “The Consulate General in Jeddah is not very secure compared to that of Riyadh (the capital, Editor’s note)”.
#Saudi Arabia Attempted attack this morning at the cemetery of non-Muslims in #Jeddah. During the ceremony of #November 11th. In the presence of the Consul General of France, 🇮🇪, 🇬🇧 … & French expatriates. Injuried people…
15d after knife attack at the Consulate, France still targeted !? pic.twitter.com/whjBGlLdad
– Clarence Rodriguez (@Clarencewoman) November 11, 2020
In a country recognized as one of the most secure on the planet, this sequence has something to challenge. Especially since Jeddah “Is not a stronghold of Muslim extremism even if it has already been confronted in the past with attempted attacks”, recalls David Rigoulet-Roze, researcher at the French Institute for Strategic Analysis (Ifas). The port city is even renowned as one of the most liberal in Saudi Arabia, the gateway for pilgrims to Mecca and Medina.
Tensions between France and the Muslim world
The recent words of Emmanuel Macron defending the cartoons of Mohammed following the death of teacher Samuel Paty have raised a wind of protest against France in Muslim countries. If no one has yet claimed responsibility for this second attack, for Clarence Rodriguez, there is no doubt that France is targeted, although Greek, Italian, British and American representatives were also present at the ceremony.
“The atmosphere is deleterious”, she confides. The intervention of the French president on the Qatari television channel Al Jazeera in an attempt to ease tensions and recall the concept of French secularism did not have the desired effect. “They don’t understand his message. For them, the French don’t like Muslims ”, explains Clarence Rodriguez.
Saudi power weakened
On the Saudi side, the reactions are quite timid. The governorate of Mecca, on which Jeddah depends, indicated that an investigation had been launched and condemned a “Cowardly aggression”. Riyadh remains silent.
→ ANALYSIS. “Separatism”, the malaise of French Muslims
For David Rigoulet-Roze, targeting Jeddah also comes down to “Undermine the stability of the Kingdom vis-à-vis the outside”. “It is undoubtedly at the same time a message sent to the Crown Prince who restrained the attempts of the religious police to intervene in the daily life of the Saudis. He withdrew almost all of their power and made a certain number of ulemas (doctors of Muslim law) resistant to this development. “
Just over a week away from a G20 summit organized for the first time by Saudi Arabia and already weakened by the coronavirus crisis – the meeting will be held this year by videoconference – this attack constitutes very bad publicity to the Saudi regime.