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Saudi forces kill 'several gunmen' in Shia-majority region

Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province has seen bouts of unrest since 2011 [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 January, 2019

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Saudi security forces have said that they have killed several 'wanted people' during a shootout in the Shia-majority eastern region of Qatif, Al-Arabiya reported on Tuesday.

Saudi security forces have said that they have killed several "wanted people" during a shootout in the Shia-majority eastern region of Qatif, Al-Arabiya reported on Tuesday, a state-funded Saudi broadcaster.

The Saudi-funded outlet said the forces also made arrests in the village of al-Jish after the gun battle.

"The wanted people had links to cases of state security such as targeting soldiers, security buildings and disrupting development projects," the report said.

It added that seven people were thought to have been killed in the operation. State-run media has yet to confirm the incident.

In September, authorities said they killed three men branded as "terrorists" in Qatif.

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.

The Shia 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 Shias.

The town of Awamiya has historically been a flashpoint for demonstrations against the Saudi regime it accuses of being sectarian.

Tensions have been especially high since Saudi authorities executed prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr for terrorism charges two years ago, sparking widespread outrage and leading to renewed tensions with regional rival Iran.

In May 2017, bulldozers began demolishing Awamiya's historic buildings, with plans to tear down several hundred homes, as officials alleged it had become a hideout for local militants.

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