JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, July 27 Saudi Arabia said
it arrested several "troublemakers" in its oil-rich Eastern
Province on Friday while an activist said police wounded and
detained protestors there after a peaceful demonstration.
Among those arrested was Mohamed al-Shakhouri, one of 23
people wanted by the security forces, the official Saudi Press
Agency quoted an Interior Ministry spokesman as saying.
The activist, who said he witnessed the unrest but declined
to be named for fear of retaliation from the authorities, told
Reuters that protestors marched for three hours in Qatif city.
Some minority Shi'ite Muslims in the area complain of official
neglect and discrimination, which the government denies.
"During the march there was no police presence and when it
was over the armoured vehicles started entering the city, and
that is when the protesters began to block roads with flaming
tyres and throw Molotov cocktails," he said.
Police on the armoured vehicles then started shooting at the
protesters in the early hours of Friday, injuring around 14
including Shakhouri who was arrested, the activist said.
Mansour al-Turki, the Interior Ministry spokesman, told
Reuters the gathering did not exceed 300 people and said the
arrests of the "troublemakers" had nothing to do with the
gathering, which occurred in a different part of the city.
"The troublemakers blocked the roads and the police received
many calls of complaint. There was no live firing and there
weren't any injuries. Some were arrested and they will be
investigated," he said.
Most of the country's Shi'ites live in the Eastern Province
and some complain their religious ceremonies are banned or
interfered with by Sunni authorities, and that they lack
opportunities for work and education.
The government has pointed to efforts to include Shi'ites in
a "national dialogue" started by King Abdullah last decade, the
appointment of Shi'ites to an advisory Shoura Council and a
relaxation of policy to allow them more freedom to worship.
It views protests among its Shi'ite minority in the context
of tensions with Shi'ite power and regional rival Iran, which it
accuses of fomenting the unrest. It says it has only used force
when its security forces have been physically attacked.
Early this month, prominent Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr,
wanted for "sedition", was arrested after being shot in the leg
by police in an exchange of fire, prompting demonstrations.
In mid-July, Saudi security forces shot and killed a man who
was among a group that opened fire and hurled a fire-bomb at a
police station in the province, while four members of the
security forces were wounded in a separate attack by masked
gunmen on motor-bikes who fired at two patrols, according to