DUBAI: A suicide bomber blew himself up near the American consulate in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea city of Jeddah in the early hours of Monday, the interior ministry said.

Security officers became suspicious of a man near the parking lot of Dr Suleiman Faqeeh Hospital, which is directly across from the US diplomatic mission.

When they moved in to investigate “he blew himself up with a suicide belt inside the hospital parking” at around 2:15am (2315 GMT Sunday), the ministry said, adding that two security officers were lightly injured.

A picture carried by the Sabq online newspaper, which is close to authorities, appeared to show a large body part lying on the ground between a taxi and the open door of another car, peppered with shrapnel holes.

The blast happened shortly before the dawn prayers after which Muslims begin their daily fast during the holy month of Ramazan. Saudi state news channel Al-Ekhbaria said there was a mosque nearby.

The incident occurred on July 4, which is the American Independence Day holiday.

Investigators are trying to identify the culprit, the interior ministry added.

Most of the consulate's staff had reportedly moved offices to a new location.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman, who declined to be named, said: “We are aware of reports of an explosion in Jeddah and working with Saudi authorities to collect more information. “We can confirm that all personnel under chief-of-mission authority are accounted for at this time.”

A 2004 Al Qaeda-linked militant attack on the US consulate in Jeddah killed five locally hired consular employees and four gunmen.

The three-hour battle on the heavily guarded compound came amid a wave of Al Qaeda attacks targeting Westerners and Saudi security posts.

More recently, Saudi Arabia has been a target of the militant Islamic State (IS) group attacks that have killed dozens of people. The extremist group views the Western-allied Saudi monarchy and government as heretics.

Saudi Arabia is part of the US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.

In June, the Interior Ministry reported 26 terror attacks had taken place in the kingdom in the last two years. Local affiliates of IS have targeted minority Shias and security officials.

The US Embassy in Riyadh regularly issues advisory messages for US citizens in Saudi Arabia. On Sunday, the embassy issued a message reminding anyone taking part in religious rituals or other public events to be aware of their surroundings. The message urged Americans to “remain aware of their surroundings, and take extra precautions when travelling throughout the country”.

It also advised citizens to "carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia".

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