Attack on French Remembrance Day Ceremony in Saudi Arabia Wounds 2

Attack on French Remembrance Day Ceremony in Saudi Arabia Wounds 2

Attack on French Remembrance Day Ceremony in Saudi Arabia Wounds 2

Attack on French Remembrance Day Ceremony in Saudi Arabia Wounds 2

PARIS — An explosion wounded at least two people in an attack on a non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, during a ceremony organized by the French consulate for Remembrance Day on Wednesday, French officials said.

The ceremony — attended by representatives from France, Greece, Italy, Britain and the United States — was struck with an improvised explosive device, the French embassy in Saudi Arabia said in a statement.

“Such attacks on innocent people are shameful and entirely without justification,” the embassy added.

The attack comes at a time of heightened tensions between France and a number of Muslim countries, after the republication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was followed by a chain of events that included two stabbings, protests in Muslim nations, and a call by some Muslim authorities to boycott French goods. Two other knife attacks on French soil by young Muslim extremists in recent weeks have further increased the tensions.

It was unclear exactly how many people were injured in Wednesday’s blast and the authorities have not yet released information on a potential suspect or the motives behind the attack.

Nathalie Goulet, a French senator and the vice-president of a parliamentary friendship group between France and Gulf countries, said an explosive device had apparently been thrown at the cemetery. She said that two wounded people had minor injuries but could not give details about their identities.

The consul general of France in Jeddah, French expatriates and officials from European countries were among those who attended the ceremony, she noted. France’s foreign ministry said in a statement that “several people were injured” but did not provide additional details.

Nadia Chaaya, an employee of the consulate who attended the ceremony, told the French news outlet BFMTV that the attack occurred near the end of a speech by the consul general.

“We heard this explosion,” Ms. Chaaya said. “In the heat of the moment, we didn’t really understand very well, but we felt that we were the target because we immediately saw the smoke and we were of course in panic mode.”

Wednesday’s blast came as numerous Remembrance Day ceremonies were held across Europe to mark the 102nd anniversary of the armistice signed by Germany and Allied countries to end World War I. President Emmanuel Macron of France attended a ceremony in Paris on Wednesday morning.

The attack in Jeddah followed a number of others in recent weeks that targeted France amid tensions over the republication of the Charlie Hebdo caricatures in September.

Those attacks, which French officials are treating as Islamist terrorism, included the stabbing of two people outside the former Paris offices of the satirical newspaper, the beheading of a teacher and the killing of three churchgoers in a basilica in Nice, southern France.

On the same day as the basilica attack, a Saudi citizen wounded a guard in a knife attack at the French consulate in Jeddah, raising fears that France could be a target of extremists abroad.

The recent attacks in France prompted a broad crackdown on Muslim individuals and groups that the authorities considered extremists — at the risk of alienating the country’s own Muslim citizens. Beginning in October, the French government has taken moves to combat what it calls “Islamist separatism,” outlining measures designed to rein in the influence of radical Islam in the country and help develop an “Islam of France” compatible with the nation’s secular values.

Mr. Macron’s own defense of the cartoons as protected free speech has also stoked anger in the Muslim world, drawing threats and calls from some countries for a boycott of French products and deepening a divide with some Muslim nations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has been especially critical of Mr. Macron, saying last month that the French president needed “mental treatment.” Other majority Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia, have also officially condemned the cartoons as offensive and warned against attempts to link Islam and terrorism.

In an interview with Al Jazeera last month, Mr. Macron tried to smooth the situation, emphasizing that his “country is a country that has no problem with any religion.” Mr. Macron said that he understood the feelings of Muslims who were shocked by the cartoons but added that the “radical Islam” he was trying to fight was a threat to all people, especially Muslims.




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