The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia urged Americans planning to travel to four areas in the eastern part of the kingdom to use caution, following clashes this week between protesters and the security forces.
The “emergency message” on travel to al-Qatif, Awwamiya, Safwa and Saihat was issued today by the embassy in the capital, Riyadh.
“While demonstrations may appear peaceful, the potential exists for rapid escalation of a situation,” according to the e-mailed message.
Saudi Arabia vowed to use “an iron fist” after the government said 11 members of the security forces were attacked and injured during unrest in Awwamiya on Oct. 3.
It accused an unidentified foreign country of seeking to undermine the stability of the kingdom. The assailants, some on motorcycles, used machine guns and Molotov cocktails, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
The unnamed country is Iran, which the Saudis accuse of provoking unrest among the kingdom’s minority Shiite Muslims.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil supplier, escaped the mass protests that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia this year and spread to Saudi neighbors Yemen and Bahrain. There were rallies earlier in the year in the eastern oil-producing hub, where the Sunni Muslim kingdom’s Shiite minority is concentrated.