Saudi Sees Unrest In Oil-Rich Eastern Province, Blames Foreign Country

RIYADH (Dow Jones Newswires), Oct. 5, 2011

Saudi Arabia said unrest in a Shiite Muslim town in the oil-rich Eastern province was the work of an unidentified "foreign country" seeking to undermine the kingdom's stability.

"A foreign country is trying to undermine national security by inciting strife (in the town of Awamia)," the Saudi state news agency quoted a statement by the Interior Ministry assaying late Tuesday.

Assailants in Awamia used machine guns and Molotov cocktails, which injured 11 security personnel and 3 civilians, according to the statement.

The kingdom warned it would use an "iron fist" against anyone who tried to undermine security in Saudi Arabia.

Human rights activists told Zawya Dow Jones that the violence started when police opened fire in the air to disperse protesters who had surrounded a local police station demanding the release of two men arrested earlier.

The Eastern province is home to both the kingdom's Shiite minority, which is thought to make up around 10% of the population, as well as the majority of the country's enormous oil reserves.

Shiites have complained in the past of discrimination when seeking jobs and of harassment by the authorities, while the government says Saudi law treats members of both Shiite and the majority Sunni sects equally.

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