SUNNI-SHIAA CLASHES IN EASTERN SAUDIA ARABIA
Fourteen people have been injured in clashes in eastern Saudi Arabia, state media said on Tuesday 10/04/2011. State media said eight of those wounded were security personnel and three were civilians.
They said the unrest in the province of Qatif late on Monday had been incited by “a foreign country”, without elaborating. An emailed statement by a US-based Saudi dissident said Monday night’s protests were caused by the arrest of two elders.
“The protesters burnt police cars after police, supported with hundreds of riot police, opened fire from the encircled police station in the city,” said Ali Al Ahmed, a Shiaa Saudi activist in Washington. “The city is now under siege by security forces.”
Saudi Arabia’s minority Shiaa population is concentrated in the east, the scene of protests earlier this year.
State news agency SPA quoted the interior ministry as saying that “a group of outlaws and rioters on motorbikes” had gathered in al-Awamia village near the city of Qatif, “carrying petrol bombs”.
The group was responsible for acts leading to “insecurity with incitement from a foreign country that aims to undermine the nation’s security and stability”, SPA reported. Saudi mentions of foreign meddling are normally veiled references to Iran, the region’s main Shiaa power, observers say.
In March, Saudi police opened fire to disperse protesters in Qatif, a day before planned countrywide anti-government protests. On 03/14/2011 Saudi forces entered neighbor Bahrain to crack down on Shiaa protesters ignoring USA pressure no to do so (see – Saudi-Move). Saudi Arabia refers to the Shiaa led unrest in the Gulf Emirates and in Eastern Saudia as an Iranian provocation to undermine Saudi and American grip on the Gulf since many of the protesters are Iranian emigrants with strong ties to Iran (see – BahraIn 2011 Crisis).
Protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia, which has had an absolute monarchy since its unification in the 1930s. Rights groups have accused the police of beating protesters during previous rallies in Qatif (see also – Al-Nimr Arrest 07.08.12 ).
Shias make up about 10% of the population in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.
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