Egypt Independent

Saudi forces shoot dead Shia protester

DUBAI — Saudi security forces clashed with Shia protesters in the kingdom's oil-rich east at dawn on Friday, killing one person and wounding three, witnesses and activists said.

Security forces opened fire with live rounds after protesters hurled stones at one of their vehicles in the Shia village of Al-Awamiya in the Qatif region, witnesses said.

Activists said Issam Mohammed, 22, was killed by multiple bullet wounds.

Three other people were wounded by security force fire, one of them a man driving through a checkpoint at the entrance to the village, the activists said.

Security forces sealed off the village after the clashes, witnesses said.

There was no immediate comment from the Saudi authorities.

The clashes came after demonstrations were held in four Qatif region villages to call for the "release of political detainees, reform and an end to sectarian discrimination," one activist told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

Protests erupted in the Eastern Province in March when members of the kingdom's Shia minority took to the streets to condemn Saudi military intervention against Shia-led pro-democracy demonstrations in neighboring Bahrain.

Four Shias were shot dead in November. The Interior Ministry said security forces had come under fire from gunmen operating on "foreign orders," in a veiled accusation against Shia Iran.

A total of 400 people were arrested, of whom around 70 remain in custody, according to activists.

Earlier this month, Saudi authorities published a list of 23 suspects wanted in connection with disturbances in Shia districts of the Eastern Province in recent months.

The Interior Ministry said those wanted were suspected of "possessing illegal firearms and opening fire on the public and police, in addition to using innocent people as shields."

Other allegations include taking part in "mobs, blocking traffic [and] damaging public and private property," during confrontations between police and protesters.

Most of Saudi Arabia's estimated two million Shias live in the Eastern Province. They complain of marginalization in the Sunni-dominated kingdom.