Saudi arrests Shias after gunbattle: Report

AFP , Tuesday 30 Jul 2013

Amongst those arrested was Abbas Ali al-Mazraa, wanted on a list of 23 Saudis who flared protests amongst the Shia community in March 2011

Saudi security forces arrested nine Shia after a gunbattle in the oil-rich east, one of them wanted over protests among the minority community, a Saudi-owned newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The nine were overpowered without casualty on Monday after the firefight in Awamiya, a protest flashpoint in the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Eastern Province, interior ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

Abbas Ali Mohammed al-Mazraa was on a list of 23 Saudis wanted in connection with the protests among the province's two million Shia that broke out in March 2011, the paper said.

He barricaded himself in a house with the other eight Shia, who were wanted on suspicion of drug trafficking, the ministry spokesman said.

The unrest in Eastern Province first erupted after violence between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in the Muslim holy city of Medina in February 2011.

The protests escalated when Saudi Arabia led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain the following month to help crush Shiite-led pro-democracy demonstrations in the tiny Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom.

Human rights groups say more than 600 people have been arrested since the spring of 2011. The majority have since been released.

Of the 23 suspects on the wanted list, two have been killed in shootouts and 12 arrested, Asharq al-Awsat said.

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