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Canada 'urgently' investigating use of vehicles as Saudi escalates crackdown on Shia minority

Saudi Arabia has been accused of besieging Awamiyah since May [AFP]

Date of publication: 8 August, 2017

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Canada is working "with a real sense of urgency" to investigate whether Canadian-made military vehicles were used by Saudi forces in an escalating siege of a Shia town.
Canada is working "with a real sense of urgency" to investigate whether Canadian-made military vehicles were used by Saudi forces in a brutal crackdown on unrest in the kingdom's east, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Monday.

The new statement follows the release of video footage online that appears to show a Canadian-made Tarradyne Gurkha armoured personnel carrier (APC) being driven through the devastated town of Awamiyah.

The town, which is home to many of the country's Shia minority, was put under siege by Saudi authorities in May after attempts to evict residents turned violent.

While fighting has raged between Shia militants and Saudi security forces, parts of the town have been devastated to an extent comparable to parts of war-torn Syria or Iraq.


Images recently posted on social media appear to show the extent of the damage, with entire districts apparently reduced to rubble.

This has increased outrage from rights groups and Saudi Shias living in the wider Qatif province, where members of the minority sect have been at the end of religious discrimination by authorities.


According to local residents who spoke to Reuters, three policemen and nine civilians had been killed in the clashes in Awamiyah. While the exact death toll is difficult to verify due to tight restrictions on reporting in the area, it is thought that as many as 24 people have been killed in the ongoing hostilities.

Residents say they are opposing the Saudi government's plans to demolish and renovate the historic Almosara district. With power now cut to many areas of Awamiyah, many residents have fled or remained to resist what they say is a plan to clear them from the area.

Awamiyah has long been a hotbed of Shia activism in Saudi Arabia, where an ultra-conservative Sunni understanding of Islam is promoted by the royal family.

The town was also home to influential Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was controversially executed for charges amounting to treason in 2016.

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