Saudi Arabia reports say protesters detained in east


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Saudi protesters were detained in the area of Qatif, the official Saudi Press Agency reported Friday, the latest turn in a simmering protest movement on the eastern edge of the kingdom.

Qatif has been the scene of clashes between police and Shiite Muslim protesters. Saudi Arabia accuses Shiite-led Iran of instigating the unrest in the city; protesters say they are agitating to free political prisoners and abolish discrimination against Shiites, who are minorities in the Sunni-dominated kingdom.


State media said the protesters were instigating riots and were detained Friday for setting tires on fire. Witnesses told Agence France-Presse that security forces had opened fire on the protesters, wounding several. The Saudi Press Agency reported that there were no casualties.

Though Saudi Arabia has not had mass protests on the same scale as other countries engulfed the Arab Spring, the Shiite protest movement has persisted in the east, growing more intense after a prominent Shiite cleric critical of the government was injured and arrested.

In an interview this year with The Times, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal said that the regional wave of uprisings could be dangerous. Last year, Saudi troops were sent into neighboring Bahrain to help its government suppress Shiite demonstrations, though periodic protests have continued. Bahraini activists have launched demonstrations in support of Qatif dissidents.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles