Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Saudi Arabia: Two German Diplomats Survive Armed Attack on Their Vehicle

According to Reuters, two German diplomats survived an armed assault on their vehicle while on a visit to eastern Saudi Arabia on Monday (January 13), the state news agency SPA reported. That being said, the diplomats' vehicle did catch on fire. 
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. 
In Berlin, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that there was an incident during a drive in the countryside. 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 fired upon them.
COMMENT: Saudi Arabia, a close US ally and the world's top oil exporter, denies discriminating against Shi'ites and says that all of 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.
Neither Berlin or Saudi officials theorized as to why a German Embassy vehicle would be fired upon.
In similar attacks on foreign embassy vehicles, rarely do diplomats make public statements regarding such attacks, although obviously will internally assess the attack from the standpoint of lessons-learned.