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Published: Tuesday January 14, 2014 MYT 5:20:01 AM
Updated: Tuesday January 14, 2014 MYT 5:20:01 AM

German diplomats survive shooting attack in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI (Reuters) - Two German diplomats survived a shooting attack on their car while on a visit to eastern Saudi Arabia on Monday, the state news agency SPA reported, but their vehicle was burned.

SPA quoted a police spokesman as saying that authorities were investigating the rare incident, which took place in the town of Awamiya on Monday evening. No other details were immediately available.

In Berlin, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that there was an incident during a drive out in the country. The car was shot at and it caught fire. There were no injuries. The embassy in Riyadh has launched an investigation."

Awamiya and other parts of Qatif district on the Gulf coast have witnessed unrest since 2011, and at least 20 people died as Shi'ite Muslim youths took to the streets to demand equal treatment from the Sunni Muslim-dominated government.

Shi'ites accuse Saudi authorities of persistent discrimination against them and say some protesters have shot.

Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally and the world's top oil exporter, denies discriminating against Shi'ites and says all the killings resulted from exchanges of gunfire after police came under attack.

In 2012, Saudi Arabia ordered the arrest of 23 Shi'ites in the Eastern Province, where many of the kingdom's minority Shi'ites live, saying they were responsible for unrest.

Saudi media have said that of the original 23, only nine remain at large. The rest had been captured, killed or had turned themselves in.

In July, Saudi Arabia said it had captured a man who featured on the list after a shootout with security forces.

(Reporting by Reem Shamseddine in Dubai and Elke Ahlswede in Berlin; Writing by Sami Aboudi and Yara Bayoumy, Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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