Shia protester 'shot dead' in Saudi Arabia

13 January 2012

The Saudi Shia news website Rasid said Issam Mohammed suffered multiple gunshot wounds

- At least one person has been killed and three others injured in clashes between security forces and Shia protesters in eastern Saudi Arabia, activists say.
Issam Mohammed, 22, reportedly died when troops fired live ammunition after demonstrators threw stones at them in al-Awamiya, a town in the Qatif region.

One activist said they had been calling for the release of political prisoners.

The violence came as UK Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Saudi Arabia for his first official visit.

Mr Cameron will meet King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef, the interior minister, to discuss the strengthening of security, trade and energy ties with the UK, growing tensions with Iran and the civil unrest in Syria.

Saudi investment in the UK is worth more than £62bn ($95bn) and the Gulf kingdom is the UK's biggest trading partner in the Middle East.


There has so far been no comment from the Saudi authorities on the reported clashes in Qatif, a region of the oil-rich Eastern Province.

But the Saudi Shia news website Rasid said Mr Mohammed had suffered multiple gunshot wounds when security forces opened fire to disperse protesters in al-Awamiya at dawn on Friday, after they threw stones.

One of the three injured was shot while trying to drive through a checkpoint at the entrance to the town, the website added. Security forces reportedly sealed off the town after the clashes.

The clashes came after demonstrations were held in four villages in the Qatif region to call for the "release of political detainees, reform and an end to sectarian discrimination", one activist told the AFP news agency.

Eastern Province has a Shia majority which has long complained of marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni ruling family, the Al Saud.

Protests erupted in Eastern Province in March when the popular uprising in neighbouring Bahrain, which has a Shia majority and a Sunni royal family, was crushed with the assistance of Saudi and other Gulf troops.

In November, four Shia men were shot and killed by security forces over a four-day period in the city of Qatif. The interior ministry said they had been armed and operating on "foreign orders" - code for Iran.

Earlier this month, the authorities named 23 suspects in connection with the disturbances in Eastern province, accusing them of possessing illegal weapons and opening fire on the public and police.

About 400 people have been arrested since March, of whom 70 remain in custody, according to activists, including the author Nazir al-Majid and the human rights activist Fadil al-Munasif.


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