Security forces in eastern Saudi Arabia have cracked down on a large demonstration in the eastern city of Qatif, killing two people and injuring at least 20, after a Shia leader was shot and arrested, activists said.
Hundreds of protesters were reported to have taken to the streets on Sunday after Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric and anti-government activist, was chased, shot and arrested while driving earlier in the day, human rights activist Hussain al-Alk told Al Jazeera.
Alk, a Qatif resident and staffer at the Adala Center for Human Rights, said the arrest took place at around 4pm and that organisers called for mass demonstrations after the evening prayer.
The protests were the largest in the city since November and December, when at least six demonstrators were shot and killed, Alk said. He said that he believed the government was prompted by influential Sunnis to escalate its pressure on the Shia opposition.
“During all this period … the speeches of Sheikh Nimr were very hot, and he’s always attacking the government, but it seems that in the last month the government became too worried. The Sunnis have started saying, ‘Why when the Sunnis are talking against the government you are arresting him immediately, while Shias, you are not doing anything to him,’” Alk said.