Shia gunmen killed a Saudi child and a Pakistani man during a terror attack on workers at a building project in restive eastern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, the interior ministry said yesterday.
The gunmen tried to stop redevelopment work in the old quarter of the town of Awamiya, where authorities say Shia jihadist militants are hiding, said an interior ministry spokesman quoted by state news agency SPA.
They fired at security personnel and passersby, killing a two-year-old Saudi child and a Pakistani national and wounding ten others including six Saudis, he said.
The SPA said:
Workers were shot at by terrorist elements from the neighbourhood to obstruct the project and protect abandoned houses used to…kidnap citizens.
The attack took place in Qatif, an oil-producing province home to a large Shia population that has witnessed protests and armed violence by the Shia who claim that they are being discriminated against in the Sunni-majority Kingdom. Saudi Arabia vehemently denies these claims.
Residents and activists told Reuters on Wednesday that several people were injured during clashes between security forces who had entered the old part of the town known as Al-Musawara (the walled part) to secure the threatened construction workers.
A local newspaper reported Saudi security forces shot dead a man wanted for extremism and violence.
Authorities say the narrow streets of the old town, built during Ottoman rule more than 200 years ago, have become a hideout for Shia jihadist militants believed to be behind attacks on security forces in the region, and who harbour close links to regional Shia theocracy Iran.
Awamiya has long been a flashpoint between the Sunni-led government and Shia complaining of discrimination. Tensions have increased since Nimr Al-Nimr, a radical Shia cleric convicted of inciting violence, was executed a year ago.
Saudi authorities deny the accusations and have said those killed since protests began in early 2011 were shot in exchanges of fire with terrorists.