DUBAI: Security forces opened fire on a demonstration in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich east, fatally wounding one Shia protester and injuring several others, activists and witnesses said on Friday.
"Munir Al-Medani, 21, was wounded by a live bullet in his chest" one activist said requesting anonymity, referring to the incident which took place late Thursday in Qatif province in the kingdom’s Eastern Region.
"He was taken to the hospital where he later died of his wounds."
A number of other protesters were wounded in the shooting, the activists and witnesses said.
The protest, which began as a procession to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed — a celebration forbidden in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia — turned into a demonstration calling for reforms and for the release of Shia detainees, the same sources said.
Witnesses said that the attack prompted groups of young protesters to set car tires on fire as the police set up checkpoints across the province.
There was no immediate official confirmation of the incident.
Medani’s reported death raises to six the number of protesters killed since demonstrations erupted in the Eastern Region last March when Shias took to the streets to condemn Saudi military intervention against Shia-led pro-democracy demonstrations in neighboring Bahrain.
The interior ministry in November said security forces had come under fire from gunmen operating on "foreign orders," in a veiled accusation against Shia-majority Iran.
On January 24, the interior ministry announced that Saudi authorities arrested nine people accused of wounding three policemen in the region.
Earlier the same month, authorities had published a list of 23 men wanted on suspicion of involvement in disturbances in Shia areas of the kingdom.
Activists say that Saudi authorities have arrested nearly 500 people since March. Many have been released but dozens remain in custody, among them human rights activist Fadel Al-Munasif and writer Nazir Al-Majid.
Most of Saudi Arabia’s estimated two million Shias live in the Eastern Region. They complain of marginalization in the Sunni-dominated kingdom.