The Saudis Ravage Shiite Town after Iran-Inspired Terror

Awamiyah is a small town of 50,000 souls in the eastern Saudi Arabian governorate of Qatif where the kingdom‘s largest oil wells are situated. Bounded on the north, east and west by farms, its northern boundary is clearly delimited by Safwa city. The town can’t therefore expand in any direction to provide its growing population with housing.
Another salient fact: Awamiyah is 90 percent Shiite, which too accounts for this small town and its environs having grown into a major center of Shiite resistance to the Sunni dynasty ruling the kingdom.
Its denizens accuse the royal house of brutal oppression. Riyadh charges them with harboring Shiite terrorist cells for shooting and bombing attacks on Saudi security forces, in close touch with the Iranian-sponsored networks active in neighboring Bahrain.
Since May 2017, Awamiyah has been under Saudi military siege. Its residents report that indiscriminate artillery and sniper fire have killed dozens of people. In the past year, a number of the Shiite town’s leaders were arrested and put to death. Resentment is still simmering over the execution two years ago of the Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, on charges of promoting “foreign meddling” in Saudi Arabia. He was popular among young Shiites for criticizing the throne and calling for free elections in the kingdom.
A four-day crackdown elevated the animosity to a new and vicious peak.
On Monday, July 31, a Saudi official stated that a security officer from the Saudi Emergency Forces (SEF) was killed on Sunday in the al-Musawara district of Awamiyah, after an explosive device was detonated. Six of his colleagues were wounded and transferred to the hospital.
The Interior Ministry spokesman, Maj-Gen Mansour al-Turki, put it this way: At 8.30 in the morning of Sunday, a security patrol was attacked by an explosive projectile while carrying out its security tasks in the Qatif governorate. “The attack resulted in the martyrdom of Sergeant Mahdi bin Saeed Bin Dhafer al-Yami and the injury of six security men.” The security authorities have begun investigating the terrorist crime, “which is still the subject of security monitoring,” he added.
The residents of Awamiyah don’t deny an attack took place, but their account of the event contrasts starkly with the official version in that it is a catalogue of alleged savage atrocities.
Starting two days before the official account, they claim that on Friday, July 28, the residents still remaining in the town, an estimated 35,000, were ordered to leave within four hours through two specified exit points, carrying white flags. Witnesses described the fleeing civilians as then coming under random fire from the security forces. The fire was too heavy to allow any effort to determine the extent of the casualties.
They also reported a massive military buildup by the Saudi National Guard on the outskirts of the town, while at the same time troops inside continued their assaults on the residents. Residential districts were shelled with newer and heavier weapons than in past months.
In the early hours of July 26, the Shiites of Awamiyah counted at least 100 explosions from heavy artillery. It was impossible to assess the damage or bring medical aid to the wounded as any person appearing on the street came under fire.
That day too, Saudi armored vehicles were described as bringing soldiers to a residential building in the Hay al-Reef neighborhood of Awamiyah. They smashed in the doors and arrested most of the residents, who have not been seen or heard of since. Some sources later named three men, believed to be foreign migrant workers, who were executed.
The next day, an eyewitness reported that a sniper fatally wounded an elderly resident when he parked his car outside his home, then fired on anyone coming to his aid. On July 28, the Saudi official newspaper, Okaz reported that security forces had killed three men listed as wanted suspects.
DEBKA Weekly’s Saudi sources read the picture emerging from these accounts as marking a grim downturn in the severity of the Sunni-Shiite confrontation in the eastern oil region. Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has taken charge of the restive Shiite region and is pursuing the same harsh methods as he uses in the Yemeni conflict: They consist of a tough and cruel hand against all opponents and massive force with no quarter or consideration of the consequences.
Because the king was away on holiday in Tangiers when the Awamiyah tragedy unfolded, his son served as acting king and therefore had a free hand to act at will in the Shiite town.

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