Middle East

Saudi Shiites mark Iran-inspired Jerusalem Day

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2007 file photo, Syrian demonstrators gesture and chant as they march through Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus, to mark Jerusalem Day. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi, File)

DUBAI: Small groups of demonstrators from Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority marked an Iranian-inspired annual protest against Israel in the oil-rich east of the Sunni-dominated kingdom on Friday, witnesses said.

Chanting slogans against the Jewish state and its US ally, some of the demonstrators carried pictures of Iran's revolutionary leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who launched the annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day commemorations around the Shiite world and beyond, the witnesses said.

The demonstrations in the Eastern Province's Qatif district came amid mounting tension between Shiite residents and security forces.

On Monday, masked gunmen shot and wounded a Saudi border guard in the district, following clashes between police and protesters.

A policeman and an armed protester were killed in clashes earlier this month, the interior ministry said, and in July two Shiite protesters were killed, triggering attacks on government buildings in Qatif.

In May, Amnesty International said seven people had been killed and a number of others injured in clashes between the authorities and protesters in the region since November.

Qatif witnessed a spate of demonstrations after an outbreak of violence between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in the Muslim holy city of Medina in February 2011.

The protests escalated when the kingdom led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain the following month to help crush a Shiite-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy.

Saudi's two-million-strong Shiite minority is mainly concentrated in the sensitive Eastern Province.

The authorities, who oversee a strict Sunni interpretation of Islam, have repeatedly accused Tehran of fomenting disturbances among its Saudi co-religionists.





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