Pentagon officials today attempted to downplay talk of a growing ISIS presence in Saudi Arabia, saying there is “no indication that they pose a significant threat at this time.” The comments were made after yet another ISIS bombing of a Saudi Shi’ite mosque.
The suicide bomber was reportedly dressed as a woman, and tried to enter the Shi’ite mosque in Dammam. After last week’s major bombing of a Shi’ite mosque, however, worshipers set up their own security checkpoints around the area, and caught the bomber outside the mosque itself. Still, the detonation killed at least four and damaged the area around the mosque.
Most of Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite population lives along the eastern coast, which is also where much of the major oil production occurs. There is already significant sectarian tension, and the ISIS attacks are only adding to that, along with the sense among locals that Shi’ite districts are basically on their own in security matters.
Like most Sunni Islamist factions, ISIS regularly targets Shi’ites and other religious minorities. The attacks in Saudi Arabia are particularly key for them strategically, both as a way of establishing their presence in the kingdom and fueling more disquiet within.