Saudi Arabia detains two in restive Shi'ite minority district

RIYADH Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:15am EDT

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RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi police have detained two men, including one wanted in connection with the unrest among minority Shi'ite Muslims, after a gunfight with them in the oil-producing Eastern Province, state media said on Tuesday.

Shi'ites complain of systematic discrimination against them in Saudi Arabia, which follows the puritanical Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam.

Anti-government protests broke out in early 2011 in the Qatif area of Eastern Province, centered on the village of al-Awamiyah. Nearly 20 people, including two police officers, have been killed during the unrest.

Shi'ite activists accuse the government of using heavy-handed police tactics, torture and of shooting unarmed protesters. The government denies this, as well as the accusation of discrimination, and says the unrest is the work of a small number of malcontents and criminals.

State media said one of those detained on Monday was Abdullah bin Salman bin Saleh al-Asrih, who was named on a list of 23 people wanted in connection with the unrest.

The two men were wounded and taken to hospital, Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a statement by the Interior Ministry's security spokesman. The arrest took place after the Muslim evening prayer on Monday, it added.

It quoted the security spokesman as saying the men were involved in drug and alcohol dealing, both of which are illegal in the kingdom.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Alison Williams)

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