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Western Officials Targeted in 'Shameful' Bombing Attack at Middle Eastern WWI Ceremony

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Three people were wounded Wednesday when an improvised explosive device targeted a ceremony of French, American, British, Italian and Greek officials commemorating the end of World War I at a cemetery in the Saudi city of Jeddah, according to official statements.

The ceremony was held at a cemetery for non-Muslim dead, French Foreign Ministry officials said.

“Such attacks on innocent people are shameful and entirely without justification,” said a joint statement issued by the embassies of the five countries in attendance. The group also acknowledged the work of Saudi first responders at the scene.

Hours after the attack, Saudi state media quoted a local official acknowledging the attack and saying a Greek consulate employee and Saudi security guard were lightly wounded in the incident.

The British government said one U.K. national suffered minor injuries.

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The Saudi official said an investigation was underway.

Greece’s Foreign Ministry condemned the attack and said a Greek police officer serving in the Greek Consulate in Jeddah was wounded. The ministry said the wounded officer had been hospitalized but was in good health and his life was not in danger.

Saudi state television also broadcast from outside the cemetery and said the security situation had stabilized.

Wednesday’s attack comes on the heels of an Oct. 29 stabbing that lightly wounded a guard at the French Consulate in the same city. The stabbing was carried out by a Saudi man who was arrested.

France has suffered two deadly terror attacks by foreign-born Muslims in the past month.

A teacher was beheaded outside Paris for showing caricatures of Muhammad to his class for a debate on free expression, and three people were later killed in a church in the southern city of Nice.

The depictions of the prophet sparked protests and calls for boycotts of French products among some Muslims in the Middle East and South Asia. France has urged its citizens in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries to be “on maximum alert” amid the heightened tensions.

Saudi Arabia’s monarch and top clerics are among those who have condemned the depictions of Muhammad.

Wednesday marked the 102nd anniversary of the armistice ending World War I.

Nadia Chaaya, an official who represents French citizens living in Saudi Arabia, was at the ceremony when it came under attack.

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She told The Associated Press there were about 20 people of different nationalities in attendance, making it difficult to say whether French diplomats were specifically targeted.

She told French media about the moment she heard an explosion as the consul general was near the end of his speech.

“At that moment we didn’t really understand, but we felt that we were the target because directly we saw the smoke and we were of course in panic mode,” she said. “We tried to understand, and we were most of all afraid to see if there was going to be a second wave.”

Jeddah’s non-Muslim cemetery sits nears the port city’s docks alongside a major thoroughfare. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission shows just one soldier buried at the cemetery, Pvt. John Arthur Hogan, who died in June 1944.

Diplomatic posts have been targeted in the past in Saudi Arabia.

A 2004 armed assault on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah blamed on al-Qaida killed five employees. In 2016, a suicide bomber blew himself up near that same U.S. Consulate, wounding two guards.

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