A Saudi policeman was shot dead and 3 were wounded in the eastern Saudi city

A Saudi policeman was shot dead and three were wounded during a raid which descended into a gunbattle in the eastern Saudi city of Al-Awamiya Sunday, state news agency SPA said.

“An exchange of fire led to the injury of Cpl. Majid bin Turki al-Qahtani, and his death after being taken to hospital – may God have mercy on him and accept him as a martyr – and wounded three security men, a citizen and a [foreign] resident,” with moderate wounds, SPA said.

The agency said forces undertook the search against “terrorist elements” and retrieved automatic weapons, pistols and communication equipment. It added that four Saudis were arrested after the firefight for targeting the officers.

Tension is growing in the country’s oil-rich Eastern province, one of the main centers of the Shiite community in Saudi Arabia, as neighboring Yemen, Iraq and Syria contend with violent sectarian conflict.

Saudi security forces killed four militants in a clash in the Al-Awamiya region in December, and it has been the focal point of unrest among Saudi Shiites since protests in early 2011 called for an end to discrimination against the community and for democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia.

More than 20 people have been killed in the unrest since then, most of them local people shot in incidents that police have described as exchanges of fire. Shiite rights activists say some of those killed were peacefully protesting, which the government denies.

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