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Saudi Arabia: Activists accuse Saudi Govt in Qatif shootings


Unknown gunmen opened fire on a prison and police targets in Saudi Arabia's Shia-populated Eastern Province, wounding a woman and her child, police and rights activists said on Sunday.

The gunmen carried out three separate shootings in two Shia towns on Saturday, provincial police spokesman Ziad al-Rukaiti said.

"The prison in Qatif came under fire from an unknown source," said Rukaiti, referring to the prison in the town of Awamiya in the Qatif district.

Rukaiti said the shots directed at the prison were "followed by shooting at a police checkpoint" in Awamiya, and another shooting targeting a police patrol in a separate town.

Gulf-based publication al-Jazeera al-Arabiya reported that riot police vehicles surrounded a roundabout in the city of Tarout which lies on the outskirts of Qatif. They then opened fire, allegedly to remove a Bahraini flag.

Rights activists confirmed that an 18-year-old woman identified as Jasmine al-Saihaty and her two-year-old child "were wounded by random gunfire in Awamiya."

Activist group Revolution of Eastern Provinces accused Saudi forces of being responsible for injuring Saihaty and her son, pointing to the secrecy surrounding their hospitalization.

Since early 2011, mainly Shia towns in the Eastern Province have seen sporadic protests and confrontations between police and residents who complain of marginalization.

Reports on social media seemed to indicate fears of further escalation of violence in the aftermath of Saturday’s shootings.

There are an estimated two million Shia in the Sunni-dominated kingdom of around 27.5 million people.

The unrest first erupted after violence between Shia pilgrims and religious police in the Muslim holy city of Medina in February 2011.

The protests escalated when Saudi Arabia led a force of Gulf troops into neighboring Bahrain the following month to help crush Shia-led demonstrations in the tiny Gulf kingdom.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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