July 11, 2017 / 3:26 PM / in 4 months

Saudi Arabia executes four people convicted of terrorism in Qatif

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia executed four people convicted of terrorism in Qatif in the eastern part of the kingdom, state television said on Tuesday quoting a statement by the Interior Ministry.

The executions come amid rising tensions in the oil producing eastern province, where many members of the country’s Shi‘ite Muslim minority live.

The ministry’s statement said the four had been convicted of taking up weapons against the government, joined armed groups and attacked a police station and security patrols.

It was not clear whether those executed were Shi‘ite or Sunni Muslims or when the incidents listed had taken place.

Those executed were among more than 20 people on death row in the eastern province, but it was not immediately clear when the death sentences were issued.

In January 2016 Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shi‘ite Muslim cleric and dozens of al Qaeda members, in what appeared as an attempt to show it would not tolerate attacks, whether by Sunni jihadists or minority Shi‘ites.

The execution of the cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, had sparked protests in the eastern region, where Shi‘ites complain of marginalisation and discrimination by the Sunni-led kingdom. Saudi Arabia denies discrimination against Shi‘ites.

It also led to demonstrations in Iran, where protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions, prompting Riyadh to cut diplomatic ties with Tehran.

Tensions have been on the rise in the area, where Saudi authorities have been tearing down the historic old part of the town of Awamiya to make way for a modern project.

Saudi authorities say the area, which dates back some 200 years to Ottoman times, is being used by fugitives wanted for attacks on security forces and local dignitaries accused of collaboration with the government to escape arrest.

Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alison Williams and Pritha Sarkar

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