DUBAI: Saudi security forces opened fire on Shia protesters in the tense Qatif district of the Eastern Province Friday, wounding several as hundreds marched to demand the release of detainees, witnesses said.
Live rounds fired by anti-riot police wounded a number of protesters who took to the streets in the early hours, the witnesses said, without specifying a figure.
The interior ministry said security forces dealt with “rioters who burned tyres” in parts of Qatif, arresting several people, including Mohammed al Shakhuri, whose name figures on a list of 23 wanted people.
“There were no casualties,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
Witnesses said that Shakhuri had been taken to the military hospital in nearby Dhahran with bullet wounds to his back and neck.
The demonstrators carried posters of Shia detainees, including prominent cleric Nimr al Nimr, who was arrested earlier this month, witnesses said.
In recent days, confrontations have intensified between police and protesters from the kingdom’s marginalised Shia minority – estimated at around two million and mostly concentrated in the oil-rich Eastern Province.
Two Shia protesters were killed earlier this month, triggering attacks on government buildings in Qatif.
The district witnessed a spate of protests after an outbreak of violence between Shia pilgrims and religious police in the Muslim holy city of Medina in February last year.
The protests escalated when the kingdom led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain the following month to help crush a Shia-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy.