Saudi Arabia has vowed to use an “iron fist” to end violence in the country’s east after a sermon preached last week criticised the government’s use of violence against protestors in the kingdom.
The Gulf state’s Interior Ministry has accused an unnamed foreign power, widely thought to mean Iran, of backing attacks on its security forced in its Eastern province.
“It is the state's right to confront those that confront it first ... and the Saudi security forces will confront such situations ... with determination and force and with an iron first,” the ministry said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency.
“Some of those few [who attacked security forces] are manipulated by foreign hands because of the kingdom's honourable foreign policy positions towards Arab and Islamic countries,” it added.
Protesters from the conservative country’s Shiite minority have held several rallies in the east in the last year complaining of discrimination by its Sunni rulers.
Four protestors were killed in clashes with security forces in November, one in January and another earlier this month.
Saudi authorities have been acting in self-defense and their actions are not comparable to other regime crackdowns against protestors in the Arab world, said the official.
Amnesty International in December condemned the kingdom for its “campaign of repression” to starve off the threat of pro-democracy protestors, inspired by the Arab Spring.
“The last nine months has seen a new wave of repression in Saudi Arabia as authorities have cracked down on protesters and reformists on security grounds,” the rights watchdog said in a statement.