Gunman shoots Saudi embassy in The Hague

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AMSTERDAM – At least one gunman opened fire outside the Saudi embassy in The Hague, local police officials said on Thursday, a day after the attack on a World War I commemoration attended by officials Europeans in Saudi Arabia.

No one was injured in what was a rare attack on embassies or other diplomatic missions in the Netherlands, and it was not immediately clear whether the shooting was linked to the violence in Saudi Arabia the day before.

Police in The Hague said in a tweet that the shooting at the Saudi embassy took place around 6 a.m. on Thursday, and they urged witnesses to come forward. Local media reported that around 20 shots were fired at the building.

The Saudi embassy in the Netherlands denounced the attack as “cowardly”, according to the Saudi News Agency, the kingdom’s official news agency.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has expressed strong support for France following the beheading of a teacher in October by an Islamist extremist. The teacher had shown cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad in a class on free speech.

The renewed debate over the publication of the prophet’s cartoons was followed by a series of attacks in France and other countries. In September, an assailant injured two people near the former office Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, just weeks after reposting cartoons that sparked a deadly attack in 2015.

Last month, an assailant killed three people in a church in Nice, France. Hours later, a Saudi citizen injured a guard in a knife attack at the French consulate in Jeddah.

Then, on Wednesday, an explosion at a non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia injured at least three people attending a ceremony hosted by the French consulate to commemorate the end of World War I.

The defense of the cartoons by French President Emmanuel Macron and his government has fueled anger in Muslim countries, where thousands have protested against the French response to the teacher’s beheading. Some leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have also called for a boycott of French products.

In the Netherlands, a secondary school teacher received threats last week cartoon in his class supporting Charlie Hebdo, the French magazine that first published the cartoons on Islam. Dutch news organizations reported that the teacher was in hiding and two education ministers expressed dismay in a letter to parliament.

On Thursday, Mr Rutte and his Minister of Justice and Security discussed terrorism and freedom of expression – including events in France and the Netherlands – during a hearing in Parliament.

The embassy is located in the center of The Hague, on a busy street with a tram line. The mayor of The Hague, Jan van Zanen, told a local broadcaster that the attack was “unacceptable” and “did not belong to our international city of peace and justice”.

Claire Moses and Elian Peltier contributed reporting from London.

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