- Interior Ministry blames trouble on a "foreign country"
- Unrest took place in Awamiyya, in the east; 14 reported hurt by gunfire, crude bombs
- There has been concern about Shiite prisoners
Security forces in eastern Saudi Arabia clashed with armed people provoked by a "foreign country," the Saudi Press Agency said Tuesday, citing an official source at the Interior Ministry.
The incident occurred Monday night in Awamiyya, in the Qatif region of Eastern province, where many Shiites in the predominantly Sunni country live. At least 14 people were wounded.
"A group of instigators" congregated in the town's roundabout and "used motorcycles and Molotov cocktails to undermine security and interfere in national sovereignty," according to the report.
"As security forces managed to disperse them, the group fired with automatic weapons at the security forces from a nearby neighborhood which resulted in the injury of 11 security forces, nine of them from gunshots and two from Molotov cocktails. In addition, a civilian and two women were wounded from gunshots in a nearby building. All were taken to a hospital," the report said.
The ministry said that it "will not tolerate any threat to the security and stability of the homeland and its citizens, and will respond with an iron fist."
The Interior Ministry source was quoted as saying the "group was incited by a foreign country that seeks to extend its influence outside its circle and to undermine the security of the homeland." It didn't name the country.
There have been street disturbances in the predominantly Shiite country of Bahrain nearby, ruled by a Sunni monarchy. And there has been tension between Iran, a predominantly Shiite nation, and the Sunni world.
This year, Shiite protesters in Qatif city and Awamiyya urged the government to release Shiite prisoners and grant more rights. Those protests, which were peaceful, also urged the withdrawal of regional forces from neighboring Bahrain.