Saudi Arabia Blames ‘Elements’ for Firing on Forces in Awwamiya

Saudi Arabia blamed the latest violence in Awwamiya on “a number of elements” trying to evoke a response by firing on security forces in the Shiite Muslim village in the eastern oil-producing region.

Some “deliberately seek to challenge” the police by firing live ammunition toward them and their vehicles, the Interior Ministry said in a faxed statement today.

Saudi security forces killed one Shiite protester in Awwamiya on Feb. 10 after being fired upon, the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing an unidentified police spokesman. A day earlier a Shiite protester was killed and three wounded in a gun battle with police forces in al-Qatif, it said.

Armed clashes between Saudi forces and Shiite protesters have occurred in the Eastern Province since October, when 11 Saudi security forces were injured in an orchestrated attack by gunmen riding on motorcycles. Seven Shiite protesters have been killed since November, according to figures provided by Human Rights First Society.

Predominantly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia has accused Shiite- led Iran of interfering in the affairs of Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, home to three-fifths of the world’s oil reserves. Iran denies the allegation and accuses Sunni rulers in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia of discriminating against Shiites. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries sent troops to Bahrain in March to quell the mainly Shiite unrest.

Islamic Revolution

The latest clashes in Awwamiya and al-Qatif occurred ahead of Iran marking the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on February 11. That uprising toppled the pro-western monarchy and brought Shiite Islamic clerics to power.

Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority is concentrated in the Eastern Province, which lies across a 16-mile (26-kilometer) causeway from Shiite-majority Bahrain. The U.S. State Department noted in a human-rights report on Saudi Arabia published in 2009 that Shiites in the kingdom face “significant political, economic, legal, social and religious discrimination condoned by the government.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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