DUBAI: Two Saudi security officers and two people they were trying to detain were killed in a gunfight Thursday in the eastern town of Al-Awamiya, the government said, an area where minority Shiites have staged anti-government protests.
Shiites in the region complain of discrimination, a charge denied by Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, and Riyadh blames Iran for the rise in tensions.
Saudi opposition activists said security forces stormed a home in Al-Awamiya belonging to the brother of a man on a list of 23 people wanted by the authorities over unrest, before shooting dead two unarmed men they found inside.
The wanted man was not in the house at the time, they said.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said security forces came under fire while trying to arrest “a number of armed troublemakers” who had previously fired on residents and security forces in Al-Awamiya, according to state news agency SPA.
“As a result of the exchange of fire, the wanted men Ali Ahmad al-Faraj and Hussein Ali Madan al-Faraj were killed,” SPA said, adding that two security men had also died and two more were wounded.
Local activists denied that there was any exchange of fire at the scene and said security forces burst into the house of a man in search of his wanted brother who was not there.
They said that Ali, the homeowner’s son, was shot 11 times while trying to run away. The second man, Hussein, died “as he documented the raid,” one activist told Reuters.
A local news website, mirataljazeera.net, said Hussein, 34, had photographed many of the demonstrations and funerals of the more than 20 activists killed during unrest in Saudi Arabia’s eastern region in the past three years.
At least 21 people have been shot dead in the region since early 2011, when Shiites there staged protests against the involvement of Saudi forces in ending demonstrations in Bahrain.