Gunmen open fire on Saudi police in restive province of Qatif
RIYADH - Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a Saudi police patrol in the kingdom's restive oil-rich east, wounding one officer, a spokesman said on Sunday.
The shooting took place late on Saturday in the province of Qatif, just two days after a man was killed during clashes with Saudi security forces in a nearby town.
"During a routine patrol... the (police) were fired upon by unknown assailants... wounding one of the police officers," the regional police spokesman said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
He said the wounded officer was transferred to a hospital but gave no further details on his condition.
Witnesses said that police fired on protesters Saturday night in the provincial town of Awamiya.
On Friday, Saudi security forces had clashed with Shiite protesters in Awamiya after a police patrol was attacked with a petrol bomb, leaving the car in flames.
The interior ministry said unidentified gunmen opened fire on police officers trying to control the flames, forcing a response from the security forces.
One person was killed in the exchange of fire.
Witnesses said meanwhile that security forces opened fire with live rounds after Shiite protesters hurled stones at one of their vehicles.
Activists said Issam Mohammed, 22, was killed by multiple bullet wounds, and three other people were wounded.
Friday's clashes came after demonstrations in four Qatif region villages calling for the "release of political detainees, reform and an end to sectarian discrimination," one activist said on condition of anonymity.
In a statement on his Twitter account Sunday, a prominent Shiite cleric in Awamiya, Sheikh Faisal al-Awami, said it was time the government "bring an end to religious discrimination" in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.
The clashes came as Saudi's minority Shiites, the majority of whom live in the country's eastern province, marked the 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.
Protests erupted in Eastern Province in March when members of the kingdom's Shiite minority took to the streets to condemn Saudi military intervention against Shiite-led pro-democracy demonstrations in neighbouring Bahrain.
Four Shiites were shot dead in November. The interior ministry said security forces had come under fire from gunmen operating on "foreign orders," in a veiled accusation against Shiite Iran.
Most of Saudi Arabia's estimated two million Shiites live in Eastern Province. They complain of marginalisation in the Sunni-dominated kingdom.