Several wounded in explosion at Saudi cemetery, French officials say

Multiple people were wounded on Wednesday when an explosive device hit an international ceremony commemorating the end of the First World War at a cemetery in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, according to French government officials.

Several countries had representatives at the ceremony, held at a cemetery for non-Muslim dead, the officials from the French Foreign Ministry said. The identities of the victims were unclear.

Wednesday marks the 102nd anniversary of the armistice ending the First World War and is commemorated in several European countries. The French officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, condemned the attack.

No claim of responsibility

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

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion.

Saudi officials and state-run media in the kingdom have not commented on the attack at the cemetery.

Jeddah, the Red Sea port city, saw its Ottoman troops surrender to local troops backed by the British in 1916 amid the war. That sparked the start of the Kingdom of Hejaz, which later became part of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

Wednesday’s attack follows on the heels of a stabbing Oct. 29 that slightly wounded a guard at the French Consulate in Jeddah. The stabbing was carried out by a Saudi man, who was arrested. His motives remain unclear.

‘Maximum alert’

France has urged its citizens in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries to be “on maximum alert” amid heightened tensions after an assailant decapitated a French middle school teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

The French president’s support for caricatures as a cornerstone of free speech has riled some Muslims who view the depictions as incitement and a form of hate speech.

Saudi King Salman is scheduled to deliver an annual address to the nation on Wednesday, laying out policy priorities for the coming year.