The police stopped a man from setting himself afire before Kaaba, the holy place of pilgimrage in Mecca. He tried to set himself alight with gasoline inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque late on Monday, but was arrested before he could do so, police in Saudi Arabia said.
“His actions suggest that he is mentally ill,” the mosque’s police service said in a statement, adding without elaborating that police would take measures to address the incident. Police said the man was in his 40s.
An unverified video clip circulating on social media showed a man being hustled away from the Kaaba by pilgrims and security guards.
However, conflicting reports emerged suggesting that it was an attempted terror attack to burn down the Muslim shrine.
Earlier media reports claimed that the man was spilling gasoline on the kiswah, the black and gold silk curtain that covers the Kaaba – the cubical structure at the center of the sacred mosque. One eyewitness told Sabq that the man had been uttering slogans, referring to extremist Islamist groups like Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
A media report on Tuesday also referred to the incident as a foiled attempt to “burn” the Kaaba. According to local daily Sabq, an eyewitness said that he saw a man pour gasoline on the Kaaba, Xinhua news agency reported.
Previous reports quoted a Saudi man saying that he spotted a man who was spilling gas on the Kaaba.
“As I was circling the Kaaba at around 11:40pm on Monday, I saw a man pouring gasoline from a bottle on Kaaba and uttering takfiri expressions [pronouncing that someone or something is un-Islamic],” Ghazi Darweesh said.
“I immediately held him and called for assistance from the people around me. The security men rushed to the scene and took him away.”
Kaaba is central for all Muslims who are required to look its direction when they perform their prayers five times a day, and during the haj or Umrah, pilgrims walk counterclockwise around it seven times.
He alerted the police, who arrested the man. The daily confirmed that the incident occurred at 11 pm on Monday.
In May 2016, the police foiled a suicide bomber from reaching the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina, leaving the attacker and four police personnel killed.
Also, in November 1979, the Grand Mosque was seized by over 400 fundamentalists who seized pilgrims as hostages. Special forces fought fierce gun battles with the militants to retake the mosque compound.
(With inputs from media agencies.)