Reuters – Six mortar bombs landed near a border post in northern Saudi Arabia in an attack claimed by an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’a militia, which said on Thursday it was warning the kingdom to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs.
The mortar rounds hit desert on the far northwestern fringes of the kingdom’s oil-producing region on Wednesday, several hundred kilometres (miles) from the major fields operated by the world’s largest oil exporter and biggest Arab economy.
“The goal was to send a warning message to Saudis to tell them that their border stations and patrol are within our range of fire,” Wathiq al-Batat, commander of Iraq’s al-Mukhtar Army militia, told Reuters in Baghdad by telephone.
There was no independent confirmation that the militia was behind the mortar fire, reported two days after twin suicide bombings killed 25 people near Iran’s embassy in Beirut. Some Shi’a commentators blamed that assault on Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, which has condemned the Beirut attack.
Turki said Saudi forces had not been put on higher alert after the bombardment.
Saudi news website sabq.org published pictures of small craters in the desert which it said the mortar fire had caused. A high barbed-wire fence and a road were visible in some photos.
“Six mortar rounds fell in an uninhabited area near the new al-Auja border guard centre of Hafr al-Batin in Eastern Province. Thank God, no damage resulted,” said border guard spokesman General Mohammed al-Ghamdi.
“This is just the beginning and there will be more attacks if they (the Saudis) do not stop,” he said.
“The timing is linked to the attack on the embassy (in Beirut), he said, adding that the group might also have been trying to sabotage a call this month by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for better ties with Saudi Arabia.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Kuwait, has had tense relations with the Shi’a-led Iraqi government, which it views as a pawn of Iran. It has not had an ambassador based in Baghdad since before the 1990-91 Gulf crisis.
The Saudi border area with Iraq and Kuwait lies deep in a largely unpopulated desert. The kingdom has installed fences along its long frontier with Iraq, about 60 km (38 miles) of which runs along the edge of Eastern Province, which is home to many of Saudi Arabia’s own substantial Shi’ite minority.