ABU DHABI Ñ For the second time in a week, Saudi security forces
confronted reformists in unauthorized demonstrations throughout the kingdom.
The London-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia organized the
demonstrations in Dhammam, Hael and Jedda for Thursday. But Saudi security
forces were prepared and quelled the demonstrations.
"Anyone who takes part in them will be subjected to deterrent punishment
meted out by the court," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz
said on the eve of Thursday's protests.
Witnesses and Arab news reports said scores of people were arrested, Middle East Newsline reported. The
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite channel quoted a Saudi security official as
saying that 30 people were arrested in Jedda, 31 in Dhammam and 13 in Hael.
Other reports placed the number of detained at more than 100. The Saudi
opposition had called on the protests to begin from major downtown mosques.
Saudi opposition sources said other protests were attempted in Ahsa,
Baha, Jawf and Tabuk. No arrests were reported in those cities.
The protests in the kingdom were the second in a week. Last week,
authorities arrested more than 270 people in Riyad in the first protest by
On Thursday, Saudi security forces sought to prevent reformist
protesters from bringing people to the demonstrations. Police blocked key
roads in Jedda, Riyad and other cities and checked passing cars.
[In Manama, young Shi'ites, many of them wearing masks, rioted for the
second straight night on early Friday to protest the appearance of a
controversial Lebanese singer. Bahraini anti-riot police fired rubber
bullets and tear gas grenades and arrested scores of teenagers in street
violence that some officials said has not been seen in years in the
In Jedda, reformers brought 100 people in a demonstration in the city's
downtown district. Witnesses said about half of the demonstrators were
In Riyad, Saudi forces deployed water cannons and other anti-riot gear
to disperse demonstrators. Witnesses said plainclothes police monitored
those coming to the demonstration in Jedda.
Saudi sources said the latest protests were scheduled a week ago and
notification was relayed through e-mail and websites. The Movement for
Islamic Reform in Arabia also announced the protests on its website and
In Washington, a senior U.S. official praised Saudi cooperation in the
war against Al Qaida and appeared to defend the Saudi crackdown on protests.
The senior State Department official told a briefing on Thursday that the
alternative to the royal family is a Taliban-inspired regime.