Suicide bomber kills four and injures five others

A SUICIDE bomber has killed four people and injured five others in an attack on the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Islam's second most holy site.

Four members of the Saudi security forces were killed in the explosion near the mosque's security headquarters.

Pictures on social media show dark smoke billowing from flames near the mosque, the final resting place of the Prophet Mohammed.

The blast occurred at sunset on Monday when people were beginning to break their fast for Ramadan.

Saudi newspaper Okaz reported that security officers were preparing to break their fast when they were approached by a young man - who looked to be about 18 years old - to share food. He then detonated his explosives.

Despite the terror, Saudi state TV showed live video of thousands of worshippers standing defiantly shoulder to shoulder to pray in the sacred mosque just hours after the explosion.

Qari Ziyaad Patel, 36, from Johannesburg, South Africa, was in the mosque when he heard a loud blast just as sunset prayers were ending and people were breaking their fast.

He said many initially believed it was the sound of traditional, celebratory cannon fire but then he felt the ground shake.

"The vibrations were very strong ... it sounded like a building imploded," he said.

Thousands of Muslims visit Prophet Mohammed's tomb in the final days of Ramadan every year before continuing on their pilgrimage to Mecca.

It was the third suicide attack in Saudi Arabia in less than 24 hours.

A suicide bomber blew himself up in the carpark of a mosque in the eastern city of Qatif, where most of the country's Shia minority live.

Another suicide attacker struck in Jeddah, on the west coast, in the early hours of Monday morning after detonating a device near the US consulate.

Two security officers were injured as they tackled the man to the ground.

The attacks came on the eve of Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far.

The possibility of coordinated, multiple attacks across different cities in Saudi Arabia on the same day underscores the threat the kingdom faces from extremists who view the Western-allied Saudi monarchy as heretics and enemies of Islam.