Makkah: A “mentally disturbed” man tried to set himself on fire with gasoline near the Holy Kaaba, the black-clad building toward which the world's Muslims face to pray, inside Masjid al Haram - the Grand Mosque in Makkah late on Monday but was arrested before he could do so.
The man, in his 40s and a Saudi citizen, “poured petrol on himself and tried to set it alight,” Grand Mosque police spokesman Maj. Sameh Al-Salami said.
“His behavior gives the impression that he is mentally disturbed.”
The incident happened on Monday night. Pilgrims and police escorted the man away before he could light the petrol, footage posted on social media showed.
Witnesses told Saudi media that the man also tried to set fire to the kiswah, the black and gold silk curtain that covers the Kaaba.
One witness was quoted by Sabq news website that the man had been uttering “takfiri” slogans, referring to extremist groups blamed for numerous attacks worldwide.
The official denied rumors circulating about the man’s desire to burn the Kaaba, and emphasized that the man was only trying to harm himself.
In November 1979, the Grand Mosque was seized by more than 400 fundamentalists led by Saudi Juhayman al-Oteibi who claimed to have with them the redeemer - the mahdi.
They seized pilgrims as hostages and it took special forces a fortnight of fierce gun battles to retake the mosque compound.