RIYADH- Saudi Arabia’s security forces foiled a terror plot targeting the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, exchanging gunfire with one of the suspects who blew himself up inside a home on Friday, according to the interior ministry.
The ministry described the plot as part of “self-serving schemes managed from abroad”.
Five people, including a woman, were arrested in security operations in Mecca, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news website said, citing interior ministry security spokesman Mansour al-Turki.
Turki said police “foiled the terrorist plan that targeted the security of the Grand Mosque, pilgrims and worshippers”.
The blast partially collapsed the building where the terrorist had taken refuge, injuring six pilgrims, Turki said.
He added that four had already been released from hospital, and five security men were also slightly hurt.
The ministry did not name the group involved in the attack. The ultraconservative Sunni kingdom battled an al-Qaida insurgency for years and more recently has faced attacks from a local branch of the Islamic State group.
Since late 2014 Saudi Arabia has faced periodic bombings and shootings claimed by the so called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’, or ISIS.
Near the end of Ramadan last year in the Saudi city of Medina four security officers died in an explosion close to Islam’s second holiest site, the Prophet’s Mosque.
The Grand Mosque has been the target of militants before. In 1979, a group seized the mosque, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims pray toward five times a day, for two weeks as they demanded the royal family abdicate the throne.
The official toll of the assault and subsequent fighting to retake the mosque from hundreds of armed militants was over 100 people killed and 500 wounded.