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Suspect arrested after stabbing guard at French consulate in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A Saudi man stabs and slightly wounds a guard at the French consulate in the city of Jiddah, authorities say, as France urges its citizens in the kingdom to be “on maximum alert.”

The Saudi Press Agency offers no immediate motive for the attack in the Red Sea port city. However, it comes amid heightened tensions after an assailant decapitated a French middle school teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad for a class on free speech. Those caricatures were published by Charlie Hebdo and cited by the men who gunned down the newspaper’s editorial meeting in 2015.

The Saudi Press Agency report, citing police spokesman Maj. Mohammed al-Ghamdi, says the special force for diplomatic security was able to arrest the Saudi man. He is said to be in his 40s. The guard was taken to a hospital for treatment, the agency says.

The report doesn’t elaborate. A statement published by the French Embassy in Riyadh mirrors the details of the news agency’s account, saying that the diplomatic mission condemned the “unjustified” attack.

“We appeal to our compatriots in Saudi Arabia to be on maximum alert,” the statement says.

In Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest sites in Islam, there has been criticism of France but much more muted than in other countries. The Saudi Foreign Ministry has said the kingdom “rejects any attempt to link Islam and terrorism, and denounces the offensive cartoons of the prophet.” Saudi clerics have too condemned the caricatures, but have also cited the prophet’s “mercy, justice, tolerance.” Another prominent sheikh called on Muslims not to overreact.

— AP

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