Saudi Police Fire on Qatif Protesters
Friday, July 27 2012
Saudi security forces opened fire on protesters in the tense Qatif district of the Eastern Province on Friday, wounding several as hundreds marched to demand political reform and the release of detainees, witnesses said.
Live rounds fired by anti-riot police wounded a number of protesters who took to the streets in the early hours, the witnesses said, without specifying a figure.
The interior ministry said security forces dealt with "rioters who burned tires" in parts of Qatif, arresting several people, including Mohammed al-Shakhuri, whose name figures on a list of 23 wanted people.
"There were no casualties," the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
Witnesses said that Shakhuri had been taken to the military hospital in nearby Dhahran with bullet wounds to his back and neck.
The demonstrators carried posters of detainees, including prominent cleric Nimr al-Nimr who was violently arrested earlier this month, witnesses said.
In recent days, confrontations have intensified between police and protesters from the kingdom's marginalized Shia minority – estimated at around two million and mostly concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern Province.
Two protesters were killed earlier this month, triggering protests at government buildings in Qatif.
The district witnessed a spate of protests after an outbreak of violence between Shia pilgrims and religious police in the Muslim holy city of Medina in February last year.
The protests escalated when the kingdom led a force of Gulf troops into neighboring Bahrain the following month to help crush a pro-democracy uprising against the hardline Sunni monarchy.