Saudi oil pipeline set alight amid gunfire

The attack took place at 2am but the fire was extinguished, according to the official SPA news agency.

Powered by automated translation

RIYADH // Gunfire directed at security forces set fire to an oil pipeline in eastern Saudi Arabia, just days after a dissident Shiite cleric was sentenced to death.

Officers in the kingdom “came under heavy gunfire from an unknown source, which led to a limited fire breaking out on a subsidiary oil pipeline”, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The attack took place at 2am on Saturday but the fire was extinguished, an Eastern Province police spokesman said.

A similar incident took place last September in Awamiya, when gunfire also targeted police and triggered a pipeline fire.

Eastern Province is home to the bulk of oil reserves in Saudi Arabia.

The community has witnessed periodic clashes involving the security forces since demonstrations began three years ago.

On Wednesday, a court convicted Shiite cleric Nimr Al Nimr of sedition and sentenced him to death.

Al Nimr was a driving force behind demonstrations against the authorities that erupted in 2011, alongside a Shiite-led protest movement in Bahrain.

The court also found Al Nimr guilty of seeking “foreign meddling” in the country – a reference to Iran – and of “disobeying” the kingdom’s rulers and taking up arms against security forces.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the conviction would likely sow discord.

“If the news that a Saudi court sentenced Sheikh Nimr to death is true, it will undoubtedly hurt Muslims’ feelings and provoke international reaction,” he said.

“Such measures do not contribute to the restoration of peace and calm in the region.”

Al Nimr’s family in Awamiya and the coastal community of Qatif accused the court of ignoring the sheikh’s “peaceful and non-violent approach”, saying the case had caused “social and political discontent”.

They called for dialogue with officials, “out of concern for our dear country”.

Most of Saudi Arabia’s two million Shiites live in the east, and many complain of marginalisation.

After the initial protests, tension rose further in July 2012 when security forces arrested Nimr. Discontent has continued to simmer since.

* Agence France-Presse