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Awamiyah: Three-year-old boy dies from wounds after Saudi security forces ‘open fire on family’

A three-year-old boy has died from injuries sustained from gunfire in the contested Saudi town of Awamiyah, the child s uncle and several activists have confirmed to The Independent.1

Sajaad Mohamed Abu Abdallah, who would have turned four in October, passed away on Wednesday at nearby Dammam Maternity and Children s Hospital, where he had been cared for since a bullet hit him in the torso and right hand in the 12 June incident. Sajaad s uncle who asked not to be named said that he, his sister, her five-year-old daughter and her son Sajaad tried to drive past Awamiyah police station, one of the main headquarters for the Saudi security services in the stand-off with armed Shia protesters, when the shooting occurred. X-rays provided by the family showed that several fragments remained in the child s torso at the time of his death

There was an armoured vehicle with a mounted gun turret outside the station, he said, and a road barrier which meant he had to take an exit to the right.

So I slowed down and I heard shooting . When I heard this, I sped up . I was twisting and turning and then I heard shooting at the car .

My sister and her five-year-old daughter were crying and Sajaad was silent . I looked back and saw he was injured my sister cried and took him to the front seat, the man said . They then drove to the nearest medical centre. The street had been completely empty at the time, he added, and there had been no warning before the shooting began. Photographs taken by Sajaad s uncle showed that one bullet entered the car through the left rear door, where the boy was sitting .

It hit the toddler in the right hand, then travelled through his waist and exited his body. X-rays provided by the family showed that several fragments remained in the child s torso at the time of his death. The boy s family, and pro-Awamiyah activists, say that the fatal wounds could not have been the result of anything other than the security forces armed car aiming at civilians.

The Saudi government was contacted for comment on the allegation that its troops or police had caused the boy s death, but did not immediately respond. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR), among other organisations, are now calling for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Sajaad s death. At least one other child a two-year-old boy has been killed in the clashes between government forces and armed Shia protesters in Awamiyah, in Saudi Arabia s eastern Qatif province, since violence broke out on 10 May.

Locals say between 12-25 people have died in indiscriminate shelling and sniper fire which has completely flattened parts of the old al-Musawara neighbourhood . Riyadh has repeatedly denied such claims. While there has been periodic violence, including car bombs and attacks on police in the region since 2011 Arab Spring2 calls for equality for the country s minority Shia citizens, a full-blown siege situation developed in May after attempts to evict residents from Awamiyah turned violent three months ago . The militarised conflict between the state and its citizens is unprecendented , Human Rights Watch previously told The Independent. Information from the contested district has been difficult to verify as it is heavily controlled by the Saudi state, but sources both inside and outside the city say that the humanitarian situation for Awamiyah s 30,000 residents has been untenable people have been too afraid to leave their homes, and in many cases the electricity supply and water had been shut off.

Journalists were allowed into the area on a government-chaperoned trip for the first time in months on Wednesday, reporting back scenes of devastation more usual in a war zone than one of the wealthiest cities in the Gulf. Rusted cars and half-destroyed buildings were peppered with bullet holes.

The land which is mixed with the blood of martyrs gets sufficiently watered by God s light to defeat the mighty, a Reuters report said one piece of graffiti read. The neighbourhood was deserted, suggesting the heaviest fighting may be over after most residents fled the town in the last week through two government-approved routes out .

At least one explosion was heard later in the day. In a statement provided to The Independent on 8 August, a spokesperson for the Saudi government said that Due to its narrow streets, the al-Musawara neighbourhood became a haven for terrorists and suspicious activities ranging from terrorism and kidnapping to selling drugs and weapons, which is why it had been targeted for demolition and redevelopment. Locals had been given ample notice and compensation for moving, the authorities said although several local accounts contest these claims.

While some accommodation in nearby towns has been provided, it has been criticised as not nearly enough to cope with demand. There are reportedly huge discrepancies in what is on offer . Pictures shared by activists and a Berlin-based Saudi lawyer attempting to help those moved out their homes show cramped and very dirty apartments meant to house large families.

While people living nearby initially opened their doors to those fleeing Awamiyah, a 3 July letter reportedly from the Ministry of Social Development shared with The Independent ordered local charities to stop providing shelter or other help for those displaced because the security sensitive operation lay outside their geographical remit. In April a UN panel condemned the Saudi government s redevelopment plans, accusing the authorities of attempting to forcibly remove residents from Awamiyah without offering adequate resettlement options in an operation which threatens the historical and cultural heritage of the town with irreparable harm . Esam Abdullatef Almulla, the region s acting mayor, dismissed the UN s concerns on Wednesday, telling reporters: We informed everyone in the community there would be development stages for several areas in Qatif, starting with Musawara.

Of course, we didn t get approval from everyone, but most Qatif and Awamiya residents wanted to see their neighbourhoods developed, he added.

Awamiyah: Three-year-old Boy Dies From Wounds After Saudi Security Forces 'open Fire On Family'Reuse content3

References

  1. ^ Awamiyah (www.independent.co.uk)
  2. ^ Arab Spring (www.independent.co.uk)
  3. ^ Reuse content (www.independent.co.uk)

Saudi security suspects give themselves up

DUBAI (Reuters) – Three Saudi men on a list of 23 people wanted by the authorities over security offences have turned themselves in, the interior ministry said on Monday.

The report, carried by state news agency SPA, came as Saudi security forces pushed ahead with an operation in the eastern part of the kingdom to try to flush out armed men, including those on the list announced in January 2012 . The area is home to many of the country’s minority Shi’ite Muslims.

The interior ministry identified the three as Mohammed Isa al-Lubbad, Ramzi Mohammed Jamal and Ali Hassan al-Zayed, and said their “initiative (to surrender voluntarily) will be taken into consideration”.

Many of those on the list have been either killed or captured in recent years . The Saudi Gazette newspaper said that only three of those on the original list remained at large, while eight have surrendered .

The rest were killed during clashes with the security forces, it said.

Saudi security forces have been trying for more than two months to defeat gunmen behind attacks on police in Awamiya, a Shi’ite town of around 30,000 in the eastern region that has been the centre of protests against the Sunni government.

Fighting has intensified over the past two weeks, when elite forces entered the town . In May the authorities began a campaign to tear down the old quarter to prevent gunmen using the narrow streets to evade capture.

Residents estimate that up to 20,000 people have fled to towns and villages nearby . Up to 12 people have been killed in the past week: three policemen and nine civilians, residents say.

The area, in oil-producing Qatif province, has seen unrest and occasional armed attacks on security forces since 2011 “Arab Spring”-style protests .

Residents complain of unfair treatment by the government, something Riyadh denies.

Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Andrew Bolton

Afghan Officials Tighten Kabul Security After Series Of Attacks

Afghan authorities in Kabul are increasing security in the area of the capital that houses foreign embassies and government offices after a series of attacks killed hundreds of people in the city and across the country. Salem Ehsaas, acting police chief of Kabul, told Reuters on August 6 that our priority is the diplomatic area” in the new security plan for the center of the city.

“The highest threat level is in this area, and so we need to provide a better security here,” he said. United Nations figures show that 209 civilians have been killed and 777 injured in suicide and other attacks, mostly blamed on the Taliban, in the first half of the year in the Afghan capital.

Among the larger attacks, a massive truck bomb blast in Kabul s diplomatic sector on May 31 killed about 150 people and wounded around 400 others, mostly civilians. On July 24, a Taliban suicide car bomb killed at least 26 people and wounded 41 others in the western part of the city. Outside of the capital, up to 50 people, including women and children, were killed after Taliban militants seized control of a village the Sayad district of the northern province of Sari Pu on August 5.

Underscoring concerns in the capital, Afghan intelligence officials said on August 6 they had seized a truck in Kabul carrying more than 16 tons of explosives hidden in boxes marked as poultry feed.

“It was loaded with explosives to make bombs, suicide vests . and conduct terrorist activities in Kabul,” the National Directorate of Security said. Included in the new security will 27 permanent checkpoints along the 42 roads through the diplomatic zone.

They will be supported by mobile explosives scanners, sniffer dogs, and security cameras. Trucks arriving in the city will be checked by scanners at four of the eight main entry points . The other four sites will get scanners at a later date, officials said.

Officials estimated that the measures will be fully in place within six months.

With reporting by Reuters and ToloNews