(Updates with ministry statement in third paragraph, Bahrain inquiry in seventh.)
Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Four people were killed and nine wounded in clashes between Shiite Muslims and Saudi Arabian security forces in the oil-rich Eastern Province, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
Two people were killed today during an exchange of gunfire at the funeral of two others who died earlier this week in the al-Qatif region, Saudi Press said citing a Ministry of Interior statement.
“Security checkpoints and vehicles have been the target of gunfire from aggressors hiding among civilians since Monday,” the ministry said. “Security forces have dealt with the situation with as much restraint as possible.”
Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki accused unidentified “foreign parties” of fomenting the unrest. No arrests were made yet, he told a press conference in Riyadh.
Predominantly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia has accused Shiite- led Iran of interfering in the affairs of Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, home to three-fifths of the world’s oil reserves. Iran denies the allegation and accuses the Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain of discriminating against Shiites.
Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority is concentrated in the kingdom’s eastern oil-producing hub, which lies across a 16-mile (26-kilometer) causeway from Shiite-majority Bahrain, where there were violent clashes in February and March as security forces crushed protests by Shiites demanding democracy and representative government.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, and other Gulf countries sent troops to Bahrain in March to quell the unrest. A Bahrain commission investigating the crackdown yesterday released a report saying that the government used “excessive force” against protesters and that five people died as a result of torture.
There were also rallies this year among Shiites in eastern Saudi Arabia, including al-Qatif and Awwamiya. The rest of the country largely escaped the mass protests that spread across much of the Middle East.
Oil rose from the lowest price in two weeks after a surprise drop in U.S. stockpiles. Crude for January delivery rose 0.7 percent to $96.87 a barrel at 3:50 p.m. in London.
--Editors: Ben Holland, Inal Ersan.
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