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Saudi Arabia arrests Shi'ites after clashes
Reuters - 25/02/2009 - 02:26 am

RIYADH, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Saudi authorities arrested at
least nine Saudi Shi'ite pilgrims after clashes in the holy city
of Medina, Shi'ite and security sources said on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as the bastion of mainstream Sunni
Islam and is worried about the rising influence of non-Arab
Shi'ite power Iran in the region.

Jaafar al-Shaib, a leading figure among minority Saudi
Shi'ites, said clashes occurred between Shi'ite pilgrims and
morals police near a mosque that houses the tomb of Prophet
Mohammad.

"Some 1,500 Shi'ite pilgrims gathered near the mosque for
the commemoration of Prophet Mohammad's death," he said.

"Stick-wielding members of the morals police backed up by
plainclothes policemen sought to disperse them."

Morals police often prevent pilgrims venerating tombs, seen
as idolatry under the strict Saudi version of Islam.

Some pilgrims were injured in a stampede after police fired
into the air to disperse the crowd, al-Shaib said, adding
ambulances took some away. He said some shops owned by Shi'ites
were attacked.

An Interior Ministry spokesman for security affairs
described the incident as "a quarrel between visitors and
worshippers".

"Now there is an investigation to establish motives and
reasons," spokesman Mansour al-Turki said. He declined to
confirm that the clash was between the morals police and
Shi'ites.

He said nine people were taken in custody, but declined to
give more details saying an official statement would be issued
later.

A security source who asked not to be named because he is
not authorised to talk to the media told Reuters seven Shi'ite
pilgrims were injured in the resulting stampede and were taken
to the city's King Fahd Hospital.

 

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