State media claims the men were part of a ‘terrorist’ cell targeting security of Gulf kingdom
Eight members of a “terrorist” cell were killed on Saturday in a police raid in Saudi Arabia’s eastern Qatif region, a Shia minority stronghold, state media reported.
The recently formed cell was preparing to carry out “terrorist” activities against the security of the country, the official Saudi Press Agency reported citing a state security spokesman. He said the men were killed after they fired shots at security forces, who had surrounded a residential apartment in the Sanabis neighborhood.
“They were called on to surrender, but they did not respond and opened fire at the security forces… which resulted in their killing,” said the spokesman. No civilians or security forces were injured in the operation, he added.
Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province—which includes Qatif—has seen bouts of unrest since 2011 when protesters emboldened by the Arab Spring uprisings took to the streets. The demonstrators have demanded an end to what they say is discrimination by the Sunni-dominated government, a charge Riyadh denies.
One of the leaders of the protest movement, prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, was executed in 2016 for “terrorism.” Nimr’s execution exacerbated sectarian tension both across the Gulf and with Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival, Shia Iran.
The Shia community is estimated to make up between 10 and 15 percent of the kingdom’s population of 32 million, but the government has released no official statistics.