Qatif has witnessed several protests after clashes between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in February 2011
Shiite demonstrators gather in the Saudi district of Qatif on July 8. Saudi Arabia has hit out at a Russian official for his remarks on unrest in the kingdom's east, saying his comments were a "blatant interference" in its internal affairs. © - AFP/File
Qatif has witnessed several protests after clashes between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in February 2011
AFP
Last updated: July 15, 2012

Saudi court hit by petrol bombs in Shiite-populated east

Petrol bombs were thrown during the night by unknown attackers at a parking lot of a Saudi Arabian court in the kingdom's unrest-hit Shiite-populated east, an official and witnesses said on Sunday.

They said the bombs were thrown in the parking lot outside the compound of the court in Qatif district, setting the plastic shades that covered the area on fire.

"The shades of the parking lot outside the court caught fire," said a civil defence official in Eastern Province as videos posted on social networking websites showed the blaze.

Attacks on Saudi government facilities in Qatif have increased after the deaths of two Shiite protesters during clashes with the police there last week.

Qatif witnessed several protests triggered in February 2011 after an outbreak of violence between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in the holy city of Medina.

The sporadic protests escalated after the kingdom led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain to help crush a month-long Shiite-led uprising last year against that country's Sunni monarchy.

Last week, tensions intensified after authorities arrested prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, described by the kingdom as an "instigator of sedition."

Saudi Arabia's estimated two million Shiites, who frequently complain of marginalisation, live mostly in the east, where the vast majority of the OPEC kingpin's huge oil reserves lie.

Some 37 Shiite clerics released a joint statement on Friday in which they urged youths to "steer away from violence" and not to "respond to some who try to provoke you and lure you to violence to mark your movement as terrorist."

In May, Amnesty International said seven people had been killed and a number of others injured in clashes between the authorities and protesters in the Shiite-populated region since November.

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