Shaikh Mohammad Al Jirani Image Credit: Okaz

Manama: Saudi police have launched a massive manhunt to locate a Shiite scholar who was kidnapped by masked men in front of his house in Al Qatif in the Eastern Province.

Family members said that Shaikh Mohammad Al Jirani, a judge at the Endowments and Inheritance Department, was forced into a car by three assailants as he was leaving his home in Tarut Island on Tuesday morning.

According to the judge’s wife, the kidnapping occurred at around 9 am as he was waiting for her in his car to take her to a woman’s sports club.

The wife said that she heard screams for help and that when she looked out of the window, she saw three masked men wearing workers’ overalls holding her husband and pushing him inside a white car, Saudi daily Okaz reported on Wednesday.

The wife added that the family had noted that their home was under surveillance by unknown men and that they reported to the police the licence plate number of a car that parked next to their house.

Other judges at the department condemned the kidnapping, saying that it was a strange behaviour associated with gangs and criminals.

“I am shocked by what happened as we have never expected this to happen here,” Shaikh Hassan Al Saffar said. “This is a new attitude that reminds us of criminal gangs. I am confident the security authorities will be able to deal with it appropriately, and I call on all people to cooperate to help locate Shaikh Al Jirani.

Shaikh Mansoor Al Salman said that the local community was in shock.

“We are not used to kidnappings and we want to enjoy peace and stability,” he said, quoted by the daily.

Al Jirani, described as a prominent member of Al Qateef community, has at times clashed with some people over their negative attitudes towards the state.

Reports in Saudi Arabia said that his properties were attacked on three occasions and that assailants tried to burn down his house while his family was inside. Two family members suffered from inhaling smoke and two of the family cars were gutted in a fire.

In October, Al Jirani urged the residents of Al Qatif to donate money to the local community instead of sending it to Iran, Iraq or Lebanon, arguing that charity begins at home.

In August, he condemned the attacks on security men, saying that such aggressions amounted to acts of terrorism that could not be condoned under any explanation or for any motive.