Saudi Arabia’s police say they have detained a man who tried to set himself alight at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca.
Major Sameh al-Salami, police spokesman at the Grand Mosque, announced the news on Tuesday, saying that the man, a Saudi citizen in his 40s, attempted to set himself alight by pouring gasoline on himself near Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, around 11:00 p.m. local time (0800 GMT) on Monday.
“He was held before he went on with his dramatic self-immolation act and his behavior indicates that he is mentally ill. All the necessary measures will be taken,” Salami added, without elaborating more.
Some eye witnesses, however, claimed that the man was also trying to set fire to the black-and-gold silk curtain that covers the Kaaba.
A video clip circulating on social media showed a bustling crowd of pilgrims and security guards, who were escorting and hustling the man away from the Kaaba.
No report has been so far released on the real reason behind the man’s action. Reports say Saudi citizens are under increasing pressure as a result of the worsening economic conditions in the country.
Saudi Arabia, once known for its extravagant public spending, has been severely hit by the plunge in global oil prices. Petrodollars constitute the main part of the kingdom’s income.
Several protests by unpaid foreign workers have been reported across Saudi Arabia over the past months.
In December last year, Saudi Arabia sacked Labor Minister Mufarrej al-Haqbani after only seven months in office amid industrial firms’ failure to either pay or provide basic amenities for a large number of their workers for months on end.
Besides plunging oil revenues, Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion-dollar military campaign in its southern neighbor, Yemen, has also hit the kingdom’s budget, resulting in a huge deficit.
The Arab kingdom has also been facing growing international criticism for its records on human rights. Women are not allowed to drive in the country and can only take part in some local elections.