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Thursday, October 6, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

First firefight reported between Saudis, Shi'ites
in oil-rich Qatif province

ABU DHABI — For the first time, Saudi Arabia has reported armed clashes with its Shi'ite minority.


Officials said Shi'ites financed by Iran were ordered to launch attacks in the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. They reported a gun and grenade battle between security forces and Shi'ite insurgents in Awamiya in the Qatif province on Oct. 3.

"They carried out acts against the law following instructions from a foreign country that aims to harm the country's stability and security," the Saudi Interior Ministry said.

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The ministry did not identify the foreign country that directed the Shi'ites. But officials said protest leaders were believed to have been in contact with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, blamed for much of the unrest in the Gulf and Levant, Middle East Newsline reported.

Saudi analysts close to the government said authorities intercepted phone calls by IRGC agents to Shi'ite organizers in Qatif. They said IRGC ordered an escalation in unrest in both the Eastern Province as well as neighboring Bahrain.

The opposition Human Rights First Society said this marked the first armed clash between Shi'ites and Saudi security forces. Qatif was the site of pro-democracy demonstrations in mid-2011 that turned violent.

"This is not how we operate," Shi'ite cleric Nimr Nimr said. "This is not in our interest."

Witnesses said Saudi security forces raided suspected Shi'ite strongholds in Awamiya in search of two activists. They said the forces took away the fathers of the activists, which sparked resistance by Shi'ite gunmen.

The Interior Ministry said the Shi'ite resistance included the use of weapons. The ministry said security forces were attacked by up to 50 people with guns, firebombs and rocks, some of them riding motorcycles to escape Saudi troops.

Officials said 11 security officers and three civilians were injured. They said nine security officers were shot and two others injured by firebombs.

"Security forces managed to deal with those instigators on the spot," an official said. "After they were dispersed, machine gun fire erupted and grenades were thrown from a nearby neighborhood."

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