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Monday, March 14, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Saudi police use live fire against Shi'ite protests

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia, alarmed by the prospect of massive unrest, has cracked down on the Shi'ite opposition.


Opposition sources said Saudi police employed live fire in an attempt to disperse Shi'ite demonstrators in the oil-rich Eastern Province. The sources said at least three people were injured when police began shooting semi-automatic weapons as well as stun grenades toward an estimated 400 Shi'ites in Qatif.

"We ask that all police forces be kept away from the streets or completely neutralized," the Human Rights First Society, a Saudi opposition group, said. "And if the government insists on their presence then they should be stripped of all kinds of weapons."

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Qatif has been regarded as a strategic outpost for the Saudi kingdom. The city is waystation for the export of nearly six million barrels of oil per day.

The crackdown took place hours before the opposition staged the so-called "Day or Rage" in Saudi Arabia on March 11. The day was organized by reform movements within the Sunni majority in Jedda and Riyad, Middle East Newsline reported.

"No demonstrations have taken place in any part of the kingdom on Friday [March 11]," Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al Turki said.

Several hundred Shi'ite demonstrators were reported in Qatif on March 11. Police were said to have prevented several protests in Riyad.

The sources said the Gulf Cooperation Council kingdom has bolstered security in an attempt to quell unrest. They said the Saudi National Guard has deployed 15,000 troops in the Eastern Province.

For his part, the king has been meeting Shi'ite clerics from Qatif. The clerics were said to have disassociated themselves from Shi'ite dissidents, particularly those abroad, such as Mohammed Al Dosari.

"Islam strictly prohibits protests in the kingdom because the ruler here rules by God's will," Saudi Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Al Sheik said.

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