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Third suicide bomb attack hits Saudi Arabia: Islamic State suspected -

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KIM LANDERS: Suspicion has fallen on Islamic State terrorists for a suicide attack on a mosque, which has killed four security officers in the Saudi city of Medina.

The bomber detonated his explosives after being stopped outside the Prophet's Mosque, which is near a largely Shia section of the city.

Suicide bombers have also struck in two other cities in Saudi Arabia.

Analysts say the attack could be a sign of desperation from Islamic State, which is under pressure in Syria and Iraq.

Michael Edwards has this report.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Saudi television broadcast images of smoke and flames rising from an area outside the Prophet's Mosque.

The bomber blew himself up when he was confronted by security personnel.

Four officers were killed and five others injured.

Joseph Kechichian, a Beirut-based Middle Eastern analyst, spoke to Al Jazeera.

JOSEPH KECHICHIAN: We still don't know exactly what is compelling these attackers to blow themselves and do as much damage as possible, but I suspect that this is a kind of a brood of honour if you would like, to events that are going on in several other places whether it's Bangladesh, whether it's in Iraq or elsewhere.

It's an act of desperation more than anything else and the government so far has reacted with relative calm.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: After Mecca, Medina is the second holiest city in Islam and the mosque is the burial place of the prophet Muhammad.

The attack there is the third in Saudi Arabia over the past few days.

Earlier, at least one explosion rocked Qatif, an eastern city which is home to many minority Shia Muslims. And a suspected suicide bomber also died after detonating a device near the US consulate in the city of Jeddah.

They've come during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

Joseph Kechichian says this appears to be a deliberate tactic.

JOSEPH KECHICHIAN: Medina is also part of the pilgrimage and we are at the beginning of Hajj season pretty soon, means that there are several hundreds of thousands of people at any given time.

So therefore the targets that have been chosen, mosques and so on, tend to be very sensitive. And what the aims seem to be is to hit their Saud ruling family where it hurts most in terms of their legitimacy as custodians of the two holy mosques.

But so far, the damage is very slight and I don't think that the terrorists have accomplished their objectives except perhaps by killing themselves.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: No one has yet claimed the attacks but Islamic State is widely suspected to be behind them. Many analysts suspect they could be an act of desperation.

Dr Benjamin MacQueen is a terrorism expert at Monash University in Melbourne.

BENJAMIN MACQUEEN: One way to interpret them is potentially move by IS to drum up support. They've been on the back foot in recent months in Syria and Iraq, particularly with the offensive around Fallujah.

So attacks both on Shia holy sites in Saudi Arabia as well as in the Hijaz in the west of the country as a threat to the security of the Saudi regime. Each of those can potentially be interpreted as a means for IS to drum up support, recruit from within Saudi Arabia, and also potentially as an act of desperation as lashing out, striking as a demonstration of strength.

KIM LANDERS: Dr Benjamin MacQeen from Monash University ending that report from Michael Edwards.