Arson attack on a Saudi religious police centre in Riyadh on Saturday. Image Credit: Courtesy: Al Riyadh newspaper

Riyadh: Unknown attackers tried to set fire to a religious police centre in Riyadh in an “intentional” attack, causing no casualties, local media reported on Sunday.

The body, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, is charged with ensuring compliance with the kingdom’s interpretation of Islam-based morality, but is often accused of abuses.

The attack late on Saturday night was “intentional and the assailants targeted the electricity meter outside the centre” to try to start a fire, deputy spokesman for the commission in Riyadh, Mohammad Al Shuraimi, said.

Officials said on Sunday that security cameras showed a fire being set to an electrical meter outside the office. There were no injuries or serious damage.

“None of the workers at the centre were hurt and no major damage was caused” by the attack, he said, adding that the security services had launched an investigation.

Criticism of the force has grown on social media sites, but violence against officers or facilities is unusual.

Saudi leaders, meanwhile, increasingly have opposed once widespread practices such as beating or humiliating alleged violators of the ultraconservative kingdom’s rules such as gender segregation and full coverings for women.

The kingdom this year set new limitations on the powers of members of the commission, such as interrogating suspects and pressing charges.

In March, a widely viewed Internet video showed a woman belittling an officer who tried to remove her from a mall because of her nail polish.

But religious police continue to prevent women from driving, enforce a ban on public entertainment and force all businesses, from supermarkets to petrol stations, to close for prayers five times a day.