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4 killed in suicide attack outside one of Islam’s holiest sites in Saudi Arabia

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A Muslim woman prays in the courtyard of the Prophet Mohammed Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Medina on November 13, 2009. (Photo:t MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — A suicide bomber launched an attack Monday in the Saudi Arabian city of Medina, killing four people and wounding another, according to an official with knowledge of the event. This is the third attack in the country in the last 24 hours.

Sabq news site reported that the explosion took place Monday evening. Other sites showed images of what appeared to be a fire outside one of the buildings overlooking the Prophet’s Mosque.

The sprawling mosque where the Prophet Muhammad is buried is visited by millions of Muslims from around the world each year during pilgrimages to Mecca. The area would have been teeming with pilgrims for prayer during the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends this week.

The Interior Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier,  a suicide bomber killed only himself after detonating an explosive near the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The Saudi police became suspicious of a man who appeared to be roaming around a parking lot of a major hospital, the news agency reported. When officers approached him, the man detonated what appeared to be an explosive belt.

The explosion happened roughly 33 feet from the consulate’s wall.

Witnesses told CNN the blast occurred around 3 a.m. local time and that it appeared that at least two police officers were slightly injured in the attack.

The Saudi news agency reported that the policemen were slightly injured and that they were taken to the hospital. The report did not specify how many were hurt.

None of the bystanders in the parking lot were injured in the attack, according to SPA.

Police found three devices inside the bomber’s car. A bomb disposal unit used a robot to detonate them, said a journalist who was on the scene.

The Saudi Interior Ministry is investigating the case, according to the SPA.

A U.S. State Department official told CNN that all chief of mission personnel were accounted for. The bombing came after a week of attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq, which have left many on edge.

In 2004, the U.S. consulate in Jeddah was attacked by gunmen linked to al Qaeda, who killed five employees.

also Monday, a resident in the largely Shiite eastern Saudi Arabian region of Qatif says a suicide bomber and a car bomb have struck a neighborhood there, but that no injuries were immediately reported.

Mohammed al-Nimr told The Associated Press the bomber detonated his suicide vest Monday evening when most residents of the neighborhood were at home breaking the Ramadan fast.

Qatif is heavily populated by Shiites, who are a minority in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. Al-Nimr says that near the body of a suicide bomber was a car bomb that also went off around the same time.

The attacks struck next to a Shiite mosque. The Islamic State group has in the past attacked Shiite places of worship in Qatif.

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