Gunfire after police seal Saudi Shiite town: Resident

Gunfire erupted in a Shiite town in Saudi Arabia Wednesday after police sealed it off with armoured vehicles, a resident said.

Dubai: Gunfire erupted in a Shiite town in Saudi Arabia Wednesday after police sealed it off with armoured vehicles, a resident said.

Awamiya, near Dammam on the Gulf coast, has been the scene of repeated incidents since protests by the minority Shiite community began in 2011.

The resident said he saw black smoke rising over farms in the community of about 30,000 people when police moved in mid-afternoon.

"It was seen in all Awamiya," after black armoured vehicles sealed off the area. He added that he heard heavy, periodic gunfire but could not see who was shooting.

"Saudi forces raided Awamiya, some farms," he told AFP, adding that there was no word on arrests or casualties. The interior ministry made no immediate comment.

In April, the ministry said a policeman died in a gunfight with "terrorists" in Awamiya. That followed the arrest there in January of one of 23 people on a wanted list issued after the earlier protests and violence in Eastern Province.

Many others on the list had been already detained or killed in shootouts. Most Saudi Shiites live in the oil-rich east, and many complain of marginalisation.

Activists say several Shiites have been sentenced to death since the protests. These include Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite religious leader, and his nephew, Ali al-Nimr, who was only 17 at the time of his arrest. 

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