(Updates to add protest and killing on Friday, police
DUBAI Feb 10 Saudi security forces shot
dead a protester during a clash on Friday with demonstrators in
the oil-producing Eastern Province, home to a large Shi'ite
minority, state news agency statements said.
The Saudi Press Agency said a protester was killed and three
others were wounded in a similar clash on Thursday.
"While security men were following up on an illegal
gathering in the town of Awwamiya in Qatif on Friday
they were attacked by gunfire," a police statement on the state
news agency said on Friday.
"They dealt with the situation by firing back, which
resulted with the death of one," it added.
Activists earlier said a 21-year-old man had been shot dead
on Thursday when police fired to disperse demonstrators in the
town. Saudi opposition websites said between six and 14 people
An SPA statement said a clash had taken place on Thursday in
which one protester was killed and three were injured,
confirming what a police spokesman had said earlier.
Saudi Arabia has been spared the mass protests that have
forced four Arab heads of state out of office, partly thanks to
a generous financial package announced by the world's largest
oil exporter early last year.
But the Eastern Province has seen sporadic demonstrations
since March last year, and in November four people were killed,
according to the Interior Ministry and activists.
Saudi Arabia is sensitive to any unrest in the Eastern
Province because of what it says are concerns it could be
fomented by non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran to destabilise the Gulf
Protesters' demands have focused on political reforms in the
mainly Sunni kingdom to improve the conditions of the country's
Shi'ite minority, as well as the release of political prisoners.
Security forces have arrested and released around 500 people
over the prostests, and are currently holding 80 people behind
bars, according to activist counts.
In October Saudi Arabia blamed a foreign power, widely
understood to mean Iran, for instigating an attack by protesters
on a police station, where shots were fired and petrol bombs
thrown. Tehran denies involvement.
(Reporting by Nour Merza and Asma Alsharif; Editing by Sami
Aboudi and Alison Williams)