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Saudi Shiites protest against anti-Islam film

AFP , Sunday 23 Sep 2012
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Hundreds of Saudis demonstrated against an anti-Islam film in a Shiite village in the Eastern Province of the kingdom, which bans any protests, witnesses said on Sunday.

Chanting "Oh, messenger of Allah," the protesters marched in Awamiya late Saturday following a call by Shiite cleric Abdulkarim al-Hubail, in line with worldwide demonstrations against the movie titled "Innocence of Muslims".

Demonstrators on Friday in nearby Sihat village of Qatif district burned the Israeli and US flags, also in protest against the film that was produced in the United States. Security forces did not intervene despite a ban on demonstrations.

Since early 2011, Qatif has been scene of sporadic protests and confrontations between police and marginalised Shiites who are estimated to number about two million and concentrated in oil-rich Eastern Province.

Unrest erupted 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 there. Ten people have been killed in the violence.

Rights groups say more than 600 people from Qatif have been arrested since spring 2011, but most of them were released.

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