Gunman wounds Saudi preacher, diplomat in Philippines


A gunman attacked and wounded a Saudi preacher and a diplomat from Saudi Arabia’s embassy late Tuesday before being killed by policemen in the southern city of Zamboanga, police said.

Preacher Aaidh Al-Qarni was about to leave Western Mindanao State University after delivering a lecture when he and religious attache Turki Assaegh were shot by the gunman, who darted out from a crowd, police spokeswoman Senior Inspector Helen Limen Galvez said.

Both victims were taken to a hospital for treatment and declared out of danger, Galvez said. Al-Qarni was shot in his right shoulder, left arm and chest while Assaegh was hit in his right thigh and left leg.

Investigators at the scene found a pistol and a motorcycle the gunman may have used, police said. Policemen later arrested two other suspects in connection with the attack, Galvez said.

The motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said last week that the Saudi government had asked several countries, including the Philippines, for improved security because of a possible threat, the nature of which was not specified.

Philippine police strengthened security at Saudi Arabia’s embassy and its national airline following the request, Seguis said.

Seguis noted that Saudi Arabia has a conflict with Iran, where the Saudi Embassy recently came under attack, but said it is hard to say whether the reported threat was connected to that.

Protesters set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and attacked its consulate in another Iranian city in response to the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric on Jan 2. The protests prompted Saudi Arabia to cut diplomatic ties with Iran, escalating tensions between the longtime regional rivals.

Zamboanga, a major port city 860 kilometers south of Manila, has been hit by deadly bombings blamed on Abu Sayyaf militants, some of whom have pledged support to the Islamic State group.