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Saudi forces raid ancient Shia-populated eastern village

Saudi police patrol a neighborhood where two men set off their explosives during a gun battle with security forces in Jeddah on January 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Saudi regime forces have stormed an ancient village in the country’s Shia-dominated Eastern Province, cutting off the electricity to homes despite local opposition.

The power outage on Wednesday hit the 400-year-old village of al-Maswarah, home to 2,000 residents.

The Saudi officials are said to be seeking to tear down the homes belonging to Maswarah’s poor locals under the pretext of developing the region.

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights NGO criticized the Saudi attack as "illegal."

The NGO also called on the Riyadh regime to avoid taking any measures against the Shia population and allow them to decide whether to stay or leave the village. It further urged the authorities to help locals afford replacement homes.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said the Eastern Province governor's office stressed that Maswarah and similar ancient villages should not be demolished as such raids were inconsistent with the instructions for preserving historic sites.

Crackdown on Shias

Since February 2011, Eastern Province has been rocked by anti-regime demonstrations, with protesters demanding free speech, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination.

The kingdom has stepped up security measures in the region, which has also witnessed deadly shootings and bombings targeting security forces or Shia residents.

Anti-regime rallies intensified in the province after the January 2016 execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, an outspoken critic of the Al Saud ruling dynasty.

Sheikh Nimr was arrested in the Qatif region of Eastern Province in 2012.

The highly respected clergyman was charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. Nimr had denied the accusations.

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