Saudi Arabia soldier killed in Qatif bomb blast

Blast hits soldiers on patrol as tensions rise over plan to demolish a 400-year-old Shia town in restive Qatif province.

    A Saudi soldier has been killed and two others wounded when an explosive device went off during a patrol in the kingdom's restive Qatif province, the interior ministry said.

    In a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the ministry said that the blast occurred late Sunday evening in the Masoura district in the village of Awamiya.

    It described the explosion as a "terrorist incident".

    The state news agency, citing the interior ministry, identified the dead soldier as Major Tariq Al-Allaqi.

    The oil-rich eastern province of Qatif is mostly Shia, a minority in the Sunni-majority kingdom. 

    The SPA has reported an increase in clashes between Shia fighters and security forces in Masoura in recent weeks after the Saudi government sent in workers to demolish a 400-year-old walled neighbourhood there.

    UN rights experts have urged the Saudi government to halt the demolition, saying the planned commercial zone threatened the town's historical and cultural heritage and could result in the forced eviction of hundreds of people from their businesses and residences.

    In May, another soldier was killed and five others injured in Masoura after they were hit by a grenade while on patrol, the SPA said.

    It said "terrorist elements" had carried out the attack "to impede the development projects in Al-Masoura".

    Earlier this month, two men were killed there when their car exploded on a main street. The interior ministry described the pair as "two wanted terrorists".

    A two-year-old Saudi boy and a Pakistani man were also killed in clashes in Masoura in May.

    The Shia community in Saudi Arabia accounts for somewhere between 10 to 15 percent of the total population.

    They have protested in the past over alleged marginalisation in the kingdom.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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