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Fri 23 Mar 2012 03:15 PM

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Three Saudi security men shot, wounded

Gunmen attack security men patrolling village populated by kingdom's Shi'ite minority

Three Saudi security men shot, wounded
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Unknown gunmen shot and wounded three Saudi Arabian security men patrolling a village populated by members of the kingdom's Shi'ite Muslim minority late on Thursday, the state news agency SPA said citing local police.

The shooting in Awamiya follows months of anti-government protests and violent clashes between police and Shi'ite residents in the area, which is part of the Qatif district of the mostly Sunni kingdom's Eastern Province.

"The Eastern Province police media spokesman said a security patrol came under heavy fire from an unknown source while carrying out their work in Awamiya after the sunset prayer on Thursday, and dealt with it, which required returning fire," the agency said.

Three members of the security forces were injured and taken to hospital and the authorities are now investigating the incident, the report said.

At least four Saudi security officers have been hurt in shooting incidents this year and several others were wounded by fire-bombs last year, SPA has previously reported.

Four Shi'ites were shot dead in November during exchanges of gunfire with the security forces, while another two were killed earlier this year.

Demonstrations and clashes began in February 2011, when Shi'ite activists protested against the detention of members of their community and what they say is persistent discrimination.

They say it is harder to get public sector jobs and university places, that their neighbourhoods have received less government investment and that face restrictions on worship.

Protests have continued sporadically for the past year.

The Saudi authorities deny accusations of discrimination and have previously said shootings and fire-bomb attacks on security checkpoints and patrols were instigated by an unnamed "foreign power", widely understood to mean Iran.

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