Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

Homemade bomb in Shiite town kills senior Saudi cop

Major Tariq Al Alaqi was killed while two policemen were wounded in the blast in Awamiya that occurred while they were patrolling the town’s old Almosara neighbourhood.

RIYADH // A senior Saudi police officer was killed by a homemade explosive device in a Shiite town where deadly violence has flared in recent weeks, the interior ministry said on Monday.

Major Tariq Al Alaqi was killed and two policemen were wounded in the blast in Awamiya on Sunday, the ministry said.

They were patrolling the town’s old Almosara neighbourhood, where unrest has escalated in recent weeks around a redevelopment project.

Al Alaqi is at least the fourth person to have been killed in the violence.

The town, in the oil-producing Eastern Province and home to Saudi Arabia’s large Shiite population, is a flashpoint between the Sunni government and Shiites complaining of marginalisation.

The interior ministry has implicated criminals involved in the drug and arms trade in the violence in Awamiya.

Awamiya, a town of 30,000 in the Shiite-majority Qatif region of eastern Saudi Arabia, has been the scene of repeated security incidents in recent years.

It was the home of Nimr Al Nimr, a Shiite cleric put to death in January last year for “terrorism” and inciting violence.

His execution prompted protesters in Iran to torch Saudi diplomatic missions, leading Riyadh to sever ties with Tehran.

Al Nimr was a driving force behind protests by Shiites that began in 2011 and developed into a call for equality in the Sunni-majority kingdom.

Al Nimr’s brother Mohammed Al Nimr was wounded in gunfire that erupted after the police major’s death, said his nephew who shares the same name.

“He was outside his home. He got shot in his lower leg,” the nephew said, blaming security forces.

“His leg got broken and he’s still in the hospital.”

Last month, a Saudi soldier was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade and five others wounded while fighting suspected militants in the town of Awamiya in Qatif province.

Days earlier, on May 12, a Saudi child and a Pakistani builder were killed during an attack on workers at a building project in the Almosara area in Awamiya. The interior ministry said “terrorist elements” were using explosive devices and landmines to obstruct the building project.

Three United Nations rights experts have called on Saudi Arabia to halt demolitions in the 400-year-old Almosara district which, they said, caused “injury, deaths and material losses to the civilians”.

* Agence France-Presse and Reuters