Saudi kills two suspects after attack in Shiite region
The attack occurred in Abu Hadriyah, a highway linking the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province to Bahrain and Kuwait, as the assailants tried to flee the country, Al-Arabiya television and other local media said.
Three of the four men were wanted “terrorists” from the Shiite-majority Qatif region, the reports added without specifying when the attack occurred.
Sunni-ruled Bahrain condemned the attack, with its foreign ministry expressing solidarity with Saudi Arabia in “combatting all forms of… terrorism”.
Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province has seen bouts of unrest since 2011 when protesters emboldened by the Arab Spring took to the streets demanding an end to what they say is discrimination by the Sunni-dominated government.
One of the leaders of the protest movement, Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, was executed in 2016 on a terrorism indictment, exacerbating sectarian tension both across the Gulf and with Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival, Shiite Iran.
Saudi authorities in 2017 seized control of a restive district of Awamiya, a town in the Qatif region that had been a protest hub.
Human Rights Watch said at the time it had satellite evidence showing Saudi security forces had completely “surrounded and sealed off” the town.
Saudi authorities have blamed “terrorists” and drug traffickers for the deadly unrest in Awamiya.
The Shiite community is estimated to make up between 10 and 15 percent of the kingdom’s population of 32 million, but the government has released no official statistics.
The government denies discrimination against Shiites.
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