Two young men were tragically killed in Saudi Arabia on Friday after they stopped a suicide bomber from entering a packed Shia mosque in the Eastern Province.
Mohammed Hassan Ali Bin Isa and Abdel Jaleel al-Arbash, cousins in their early twenties, were manning a civilian checkpoint at the al-Anoud mosque in provincial capital Dammam when a man dressed in an abaya (a long black cloak worn by women) approached in a car.
Mohammed and Saeed suspected an impending attack and stopped the man from entering the mosque, where an estimated 1,000 people were attending the Friday sermon.
The pair were killed when the attacker then detonated his explosives – locals said the huge blast was heard up to a kilometre away.
“We’re happy – he saved the faithful,” Abdel Jaleel’s father said in a video shot at the family home, where mourners began to gather to pay their respects in the hours after the explosion.
A local resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told Middle East Eye that the young men were “heroes”.
“They saved a lot of lives.”
Abdel Jaleel, 25, had recently returned from studying at Wichita State University in the US – locals said he got married “a few days ago”.
During his time in Wichita, a large city in Kansas, Abdel Jaleel had learned to kayak, and celebrated Eid with a group of friends.
A motorbike enthusiast, he was also a keen cook and cyclist.
Not long into his stay in Wichita, Abdel Jaleel and two friends are pictured wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan “The Prophet Mohammed said: Be compassionate towards the destitute”.
His cousin Mohammed died alongside him on Friday, as the pair reportedly chased the attacker away from the mosque.
The younger cousin was just 18, and had just graduated from Makkah High School in al-Dammam.
Ahmed bin Saleh, their cousin, told Middle East Eye that his two relatives were widely loved young men, well known for their good manners and friendly nature.
“They were the best friends,” he said by telephone, while waiting to board a flight from Dubai home to Dammam on Friday. “The two of them were always smiling, always positive and were the politest people you could imagine meeting.”
Mohammed’s mother, Kowther al-Arbash, is a high-profile writer with Saudi daily al-Jazirah and a charity trustee.
In the wake of last week’s bombing, which targeted a Shia mosque some 30 kilometres north in the town of Qudaih killing 21 people and injuring more than 100 others, Arbash wrote a column denouncing the attack and the “sectarian hatred” that she said led to it.
“Terrorism is not first born in its bloody form [as it appears now] – rather, it begins with ostracism and hatred. To make a killer, you must first pervert his heart and his thought.”
Ahmed said their funeral is expected to take place on Saturday, although it may be delayed by up to two days. The burial will take place in their home town of al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province – Ahmed said a minimum of 500,000 people are expected to attend. MIDDLE EAST EYE