Saudi forces kill two Qatif protesters

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Shia cleric and government critic Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr lies wounded in the back of a police car after being shot by Saudi forces on 8 July 2012. (Photo: AFP - STR)

Published Monday, July 9, 2012

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two men had been killed after protests in the eastern part of the world's top oil exporter, following the arrest of a prominent Shia cleric.

A key US ally, Saudi Arabia has witnessed brief protests over the past year, but the mostly Shia Qatif region of the Eastern Province has been the focal point of sporadic demonstrations for reforms.

A statement from an Interior Ministry spokesman said the deaths followed a protest in the village of Awamiya over the arrest of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, but said there was no clash between protesters and police.

"Security authorities had been notified by a nearby medical center on the arrival of four individuals brought in by their relatives," Major General Mansour Turki, the spokesman, said in a comment sent to Reuters.

"Two of them were dead, the other two were slightly injured. Competent authorities initiated investigations in the incident."

Activists and websites had also reported that at least two men had been killed in the protests. The Rasid website named the men as Akbar al-Shakhouri and Mohamed al-Felfel.

A dozen other protesters were wounded during the clashes that erupted when police opened fire to disperse the demonstration, said the activists.

The violence occurred in Riyadh Street, the main artery of Qatif city, they said. The reports could not be independently verified.

The new deaths bring to nine the number of protesters killed by Saudi authorities in the oil-rich Qatif region.

"In the aftermath of the arrest ... a limited number of people have assembled in the town of Awamiya," the Interior Ministry statement said.

"Gun shots have been overheard in random areas of the town. However, there was no security confrontation whatsoever."

Activists from the Eastern Province posted pictures on the Internet of a grey-bearded man they identified as Nimr inside a vehicle.

He was covered with what appeared to be a blood-stained white blanket.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world, and the Shia minority often complain of discrimination in the mainly Sunni conservative kingdom.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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