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Sunday, 22 April, 2001, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Saudi mufti condemns suicide bombs
Isareli security official checks bus after suicide blast
There has been a wave of suicide attacks in Israel
By Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner

The highest Muslim authority in Saudi Arabia, the Grand Mufti, has spoken out against suicide bombings.

The authoritative Saudi newspaper, al-Sharq al-Awsat, quotes Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Shalikh as saying that suicide bombings had nothing to do with Holy War and could be un-Islamic.

Saudi hijackers last year diverted a plane to Iraq
Saudi hijackers diverted a plane to Iraq last year
There have been numerous suicide bombings by militant Palestinians against Israeli targets, with the latest on Sunday killing two people and wounding more than 40 others.

The Mufti has also condemned hijackings of which there have been several in the Middle East recently.

The paper quoted him as saying that hijacking was forbidden as it terrified Muslim passengers and damaged public security.

Mounting frustration

Saudi Arabia is home to the two holiest shrines in Islam, in Mecca and Medina.

But in the Palestinian territories, where resistance to Israeli occupation is often seen as a national duty, the Saudi cleric's words are unlikely to carry much weight.

Palestinians are poorly equipped to take on the full military might of Israel. Setting off suicide bombs inside Israel is acknowledged as being one of the few ways in which Palestinian militants can strike back effectively.

On Sunday, a local journalist in Gaza dismissed the views of the Grand Mufti.

He said those intent on carrying out suicide bombings already had the blessings of other religious leaders around the Middle East.

Given the mounting sense of frustration in the Palestinian territories, the wave of suicide bombings looks set to continue.

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See also:

29 Mar 01 | Middle East
Who are the suicide bombers?
28 Mar 01 | Middle East
Bomb stokes Mid-East tension
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