3/23/2012

Gunmen open fire on Saudi policemen in Shiite east

Gunmen on Thursday shot and wounded three Saudi policemen who were on patrol duty in the eastern Shiite province of Qatif, the state news agency SPA reported
  • AFP
 
Riyadh: Gunmen on Thursday shot and wounded three Saudi policemen who were on patrol duty in the eastern Shiite province of Qatif, the state news agency SPA reported.
The agency, quoting a police official, said the patrol "was hit by heavy gunfire in the evening in the town of Al Awamiya" in the province of Qatif.
"Three policemen were wounded and rushed to hospital," the agency said. An investigation was opened into the shooting, SPA added.
At the end of February a Saudi interior ministry official described as "new terrorism" troubles that had erupted in Qatif, and said the authorities would "confront it the same way they did" with Al Qaida.
The official said those behind the incidents are a "minority that is being manipulated from abroad".
Earlier in February, Saudi police exchanged fire with "masked gunmen" at a protest in the Shiite-populated east, killing one of them. It was the second fatal clash in the oil-rich region in 24 hours.
Al Amawiya has also witnessed several demonstrations in recent months which were dispersed by force by the authorities.
Activists said protesters called for reform in the ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom. Most of Saudi Arabia's estimated two million Shiites live in the province, where the vast majority of the OPEC kingpin's huge oil reserves lie.
They complain of marginalisation in the kingdom. The initial trigger for protests among Saudi Shiites was a Saudi-led military intervention in neighbouring Bahrain to help its Sunni rulers crush Shiite-led pro-democracy demonstrations last March.
In January, Saudi authorities published a list of 23 men wanted on suspicion of involvement in the disturbances.