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Saudi security forces kill protester in oil province
Rasid - Reuters - By Martina Fuchs - 13 / 1 / 2012 - 5:18 pm
Essam Mohamed Abu Abdallah
Essam Mohamed Abu Abdallah

Saudi security forces killed a young protester and wounded three in the kingdom's oil-producing Eastern Province, home to a large Shi'ite Muslim minority, websites and activists said on Friday.

Saudi Arabia, the world's No. 1 oil exporter, is sensitive to any Shi'ite unrest in Eastern Province because of what it says are concerns it could be fomented by non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran to destabilise the Gulf region. Tehran denies involvement.

The Shi'ite website www.rasid.com said Saudi security forces opened heavy fire late on Thursday after protesters threw stones at a police vehicle in Awamiya, a village in Eastern Province.

It showed a file picture of 22-year-old Essam Mohamed Abu Abdallah and said he was killed by gunfire from security forces.

A Saudi Interior Ministry statement quoted by state news agency SPA said security forces patrolling Awamiya in their vehicle were attacked with petrol bombs and it caught fire.

"While the security forces were trying to control the fire, they were exposed to shooting and were dealing with the situation as necessary," it said. "The exchange of fire led to two people being injured among those involved in the shooting, and they were taken to hospital where one of them died later."

"The security forces will deal firmly with all cases and situations that endanger the security and safety of citizens and security forces," the statement added.

The Rasid website also said security forces closed down the entrances to the village after clashes between villagers and security forces.

Saudi Arabia's Shi'ite population is mostly based in two oasis districts of the Eastern Province - Qatif on the Gulf coast where Awamiya is located, and al-Ahsa southwest of the provincial capital al-Khobar.

The Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom says it has 1.3 million Shi'ites in a total population of 19 million. Human rights groups say there are around 2 million Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this month, Riyadh ordered the arrest of 23 Shi'ite Muslims in Eastern Province held responsible for unrest. Saudi Arabia accused the 23 of serving the agenda of a foreign power, usually a reference to Iran. (Additional reporting by Angus McDowall in Riyadh; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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