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Two killed in Saudi blast: Official

AFP , Thursday 1 Jun 2017
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Two "terrorists" died in a vehicle explosion Thursday in a Saudi Arabian community dominated by minority Shia, a foreign ministry official said.

The cause of the blast has not been confirmed.

It was the latest incident in Qatif, where Islamic State group jihadists have carried out deadly attacks in recent years but where Shia discontent has also raged.

"Two wanted terrorists were killed in the explosion," Faisal bin Farhan, an adviser to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on his personal Twitter account.

Saudi authorities use the term "terrorist" to apply not only to IS Sunni extremists but also to those in the Eastern Province engaged in criminal activity, attacks on security forces, and anti-government protest.

"The explosion was very huge," a witness told AFP, asking not to be identified.

Armoured and other police vehicles sealed off the area after the blast, the witness said.

Video and photographs posted on social media showed a vehicle engulfed in flames in the middle of a street, with dense black smoke rising around it.

Other images showed what appeared to be at least one charred body lying beside a vehicle, which looked like an SUV, after firefighters extinguished the blaze.

The IS group -- which views Shia Muslims as heretics -- in 2014 began a campaign of bombings and shootings that has killed more than 40 Shia in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, which includes Qatif.

Last August, police said they shot dead a would-be suicide bomber targeting a mosque in Qatif district.

In October 2015, a gunman killed five people at a Shia meeting hall in Saihat district of Qatif.

Most of Saudi Arabia's Shia live in the oil-rich east, where they have long complained of marginalisation.

Alongside IS attacks, Shia discontent and general crime are also linked to violence in the area.

In 2011, Shia protests began and developed into a call for equality in the Sunni-majority Gulf country.

Police then issued a list of 23 wanted people, many of whom have since been detained or killed in shootouts.

Last month, violence escalated around a redevelopment project in the old section of Awamiya, a Qatif-area town.

The interior ministry said criminals engaged in the drug and arms trade were involved in that unrest. A police officer was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade, following the shooting deaths of an infant and a Pakistani man in Awamiya.

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