Saudi police fire over protesters


Saudi youth wave their national flag as they celebrate the return of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Feb. 23, 2011.


Fayez Nureldine

Saudi police fired over the heads of Shia protesters Thursday injuring three people, Reuters reports.

The firing came on the eve of a day of planned protests throughout the country, which the government has said it will not tolerate. The protests have been planned on social media sites.

The police fired at a protest of about 200 Shia in the town of Qatif in Eastern Province. The area has a large Shia population and some of the world's biggest oil reserves.

The clampdown by the police, who claim they fired after an officer was attacked, comes as Saudi Arabia tries to prevent an uprising like those that have led to revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

Saudi police have beefed up their presence on the streets to prevent large-scale protests, according to residents.

“Streets are packed with police vehicles,” Mohamad al-Qahtani, a human rights activist in the capital, Riyadh, told the New York Times. “I have never seen anything like this. It says that the regime fears its people.”

The White House is aware of the firing in Saudi, according to a report by the Washington Post.

"What we have said to the Saudis and to all the people of the region is that we're going to support a set of universal values in any country in the region," Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said on a conference call with reporters. "And that includes the right to peaceful assembly, to peaceful protest, to peaceful speech."

Read more: Saudi Arabia: Early stirrings of revolt?

-- Hanna Ingber Win