Saudi security operation kills two in Shi'ite town: TV

DUBAI (Reuters) - Two people were killed and others arrested in a “preemptive” security operation in Saudi Arabia’s eastern Qatif province, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Tuesday.

Violence in the area has become more rare since security forces largely flushed out Shi’ite Muslim gunmen in a 2017 campaign that left much of the town’s old quarter flattened.

Qatif, in an oil-producing province and home to a large Shi’ite population, is a flashpoint between the Sunni-dominated government and minority Shi’ites complaining of discrimination and marginalization. Saudi authorities deny those charges.

The people killed on Monday had refused to surrender and then opened fire on security forces, Al-Arabiya reported, citing unnamed security sources. They had been wanted over alleged disruptions to security and development projects in the area, it added.

Unverified photographs shared earlier on social media showed a bloodied body carried in a tarp by men dressed in fatigues, and homes pockmarked with bullet holes. An online video appeared to show a military vehicle firing in a residential area.

Shi’ite protests and deadly militant attacks on security forces have escalated since Nimr al-Nimr, a Shi’ite cleric critical of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family, was executed two years ago on charges of inciting violence.

Reporting by Asma Alsharif, Writing by Nafisa Eltahir and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Cawthorne