Riyadh: Unknown gunmen opened fire at a prison and police targets in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, wounding a woman and her child, police and rights activists said on Sunday.
The gunmen carried out three separate shootings in two towns on Saturday, provincial police spokesman Ziad Al Rukaiti said.
“The prison in Qatif came under fire from an unknown source,” said Al Rukaiti, referring to the prison in the town of Awamiya in Qatif district.
The region is predominantly populated by Shiite Saudis.
Al Rukaiti said the shots directed at the prison were “followed by shooting at a police checkpoint” in Awamiya, and another shooting targeting a police patrol in a separate town.
Rights activists confirmed that an 18-year-old woman and her two-year-old child “were wounded by random gunfire in Awamiya”.
Since early 2011, mainly Shiite towns in the Eastern Province have seen sporadic protests and confrontations between police and residents who complain of marginalisation.
There are an estimated two million Shiites in the kingdom of around 27.5 million people.
The unrest first erupted after violence between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in the Muslim holy city of Madinah in February 2011.
The protests escalated when Saudi Arabia led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain the following month to help quell pro-democracy demonstrations in the tiny kingdom.
Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz on January 14 appointed Prince Saud Bin Nayef as the new governor of the Eastern Province, replacing Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd. who was in office since 1985 but was strongly criticised by Shiite activists for his aggressive policy towards them.
Prince Saud’s appointment was welcomed by Shiite dignitaries in the Eastern Province.