Saudi Arab

Two Saudi policemen killed in eastern Qatif region

At least two policemen have been killed in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province after their vehicle came under fire, the Interior Ministry says.

Gunmen opened fire on a security patrol near a farm in the Saihat area of Qatif early on Wednesday, a ministry spokesman said, adding that the suspects were not immediately identified.

At least four Saudi security forces have been killed and eight others injured in similar incidents in the Qatif region so far this year.

In July, a Saudi policeman was killed and two others injured in an attack in the al-Jesh village of Qatif.

Qatif is a Shia-dominated region in the kingdom’s east that has been the scene of demonstrations following the arrest of the prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. Sheikh Nimr was sentenced to death in October 2014. Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence and the execution warrant was sent to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to be approved and then carried out. The decree has drawn international condemnation.

Nimr was attacked and arrested in Qatif in July 2012, and has been charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. He has denied the accusations.

In a recent letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the Islamic Human Rights Commission called for exerting pressure on Riyadh to revoke the death sentence and release the cleric immediately.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also called on Saudi Arabia to halt Nimr’s execution.

Peaceful demonstrations erupted in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in February 2011, with protesters demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners and an end to widespread discrimination against the people of the oil-rich region. Several people have been killed and many others injured or arrested during the demonstrations.

International rights bodies, including Amnesty International, have criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record, arguing that widespread violations continue unabated in the country.

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