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Friday, March 11, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Saudis to deploy religious police vs Shi'ite unrest

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia, concerned over rising Shi'ite unrest, plans to recruit its religious police to bolster security throughout the kingdom.


Officials said the Interior Ministry was discussing a plan that would employ the religious police force to bolster security in Saudi Arabia, particularly anti-riot missions. They said the so-called Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, assigned to enforce Islamic morals, was preparing to help battle unrest in the Gulf Cooperation Council kingdom, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Vandalism and chaos are great sins," a memorandum drafted by the religious police force said.

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Officials said the memo was relayed by the president of the commission, Abdul Aziz Al Humain. They said the religious police force was expanding from 5,000 to 10,000 officers, who were receiving additional training and equipment.

"The commission, given its responsibility to Islamic law, would stand against such trends," the memo said.

A commission spokesman did not say when the religious police would expand their duties. On March 6, the spokesman, Abdul Mohsen, Al Qaffari, said the force has already received orders from Al Humain to prepare for such an assignment.

The religious police, said to be strongly supported by Saudi Deputy Prime Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, have been regarded as the most despised element of the Saudi regime. Protests have erupted over religious police harassment of married couples or women in cars.

The orders to the religious police came ahead of opposition plans to hold the so-called "Day of Rage," which in other Arab countries sparked violent protests. This month, Riyad banned all demonstrations and outside gatherings.

"The best way to achieve what citizens want is through dialogue whether in the eastern, western, southern or northern regions," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal said.

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