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World News

France says 'cowardly' Remembrance Day attack in Saudi city Jeddah wounds several

PARIS/RIYADH (Reuters) - A blast at a World War One remembrance ceremony in Jeddah wounded several people on Wednesday, France said, urging its citizens living in Saudi Arabia to exercise maximum vigilance following what it called an attack using an explosive device.

The explosion was the second security incident to take place in the Red Sea port city in the last couple of weeks, and the first attack with explosives in years to attempt to hit foreigners in the conservative kingdom.

France’s Foreign Ministry said the attack had taken place at a ceremony in Jeddah involving foreign embassies. A Greek official told Reuters four people had been wounded.

“There was some sort of a blast at the non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah. There are four slightly injured, among them one Greek,” the Greek official told Reuters, declining to named.

The Mecca governorate said the attack caused two injuries - a Greek consulate employee and a Saudi guard.

“The embassies that were involved in the commemoration ceremony condemn this cowardly attack, which is completely unjustified,” a French Foreign Ministry statement said.

“They call on the Saudi authorities to shed as much light as they can on this attack, and to identify and hunt down the perpetrators.”

A source with knowledge of the matter said the attack happened early on Wednesday when several diplomatic delegations from the European Union and other countries were present at a Remembrance Day event organised by the French Embassy.

The French consulate in Jeddah, in a statement seen by Reuters, urged its nationals in Saudi Arabia to use “maximum vigilance” following the attack. The French embassy in the UAE also called on residents there to stay vigilant.

“In particular, exercise discretion, stay away from all gatherings and be cautious when moving around,” said the statement, which was emailed to French residents in Jeddah. The statement said only two people had been injured.

The embassies of France, Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States said they had assured Saudi authorities they would support an investigation into the attack and its perpetrators.

Al Ekhbariya state TV said authorities secured the cemetery following the incident, and showed footage of the surrounding streets, adding that traffic was normal in the area and that the situation was stable.

On Oct. 29 a Saudi man was arrested after attacking and wounding a security guard at the French consulate there.

It followed the beheading earlier in October near Paris of a French school teacher by a man of Chechen origin who had said he wanted to punish the teacher for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a civics lesson.

French officials have since reasserted the right to display the cartoons as a matter of free expression, stirring anger in parts of the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia condemned cartoons offending the Prophet Mohammad, but held back from echoing calls by other Muslim states for action against images of the Prophet being shown in France.

Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas in Athens, Marwa Rashad in Riyadh, Raya Jalabi in Beirut and Lisa Barrington in Dubai; Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Mark Heinrich and William Maclean

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