Saudi security forces then killed the assailant in an exchange of gunfire, the department said, adding that no U.S. personnel were harmed.
“The U.S. Embassy and Consulate remain in contact with Saudi authorities as they investigate the incident,” it said.
The motive for the attack was not immediately clear, the department added. The gunman has not yet been identified. The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its embassies in London and Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday morning.
Saudi crown prince threatened ‘major’ economic pain on U.S. amid oil feud
The incident occurred around 6:45 p.m. local time when “a person in a car stopped near the American consulate building in Jeddah Governorate and got out of it carrying a firearm in his hand,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, citing Mecca regional police. “Security authorities took the initiative to deal with him as required by the situation, and the exchange of fire resulted in his death.”
The guard who was killed was a locally hired native of Nepal, SPA reported.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased local guards member,” the State Department said.
The United States has an embassy in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and consulates in Jiddah and Dhahran, an eastern city close to Bahrain.
The United States has had a mission in Jiddah since 1942, and its sprawling compound is located in the port city’s al-Muhammadiyah neighborhood, close to the airport.
Home to 4 million people, Jiddah is also the main gateway for Muslim pilgrims traveling to Mecca for the Hajj, which concluded with the Eid al-Adha holiday this week.
Palestinians explore the pleasures, and perils, of hiking the West Bank
The consulate has been targeted in the past. In July 2016, a suicide bomber carried out an attack near the compound, killing only himself and injuring no U.S. employees. In 2004, five militants stormed the consulate, killing nine.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in the city earlier this month for a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler. At the end of his trip, Blinken said he was “heartened” by “new avenues for cooperation” with the Middle Eastern behemoth on issues including the economy and the ongoing war in Sudan.
John Hudson and Michael Birnbaum contributed to this report.