More than 25,000 residents of the town have lived in constant fear of arrest, assault or death, after government forces swooped in for what they claimed was an “anti-terror operation” in the besieged town of Awamiyah.
The Saudi interior minister confirmed the deaths of a two-year-old boy and a Pakistani national in the town, adding that at least 14 people had been injured during a raid in the Almosara neighbourhood.
Authorities claim the clashes erupted after unidentified “terrorists” fired at workers contracted by a company implementing a controversial renovation project in the town.
Reports also suggest the group used explosives to destroy construction equipment.
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According to the Saudi security forces, attempts were made to disarm the group, who allegedly opened fire, killing police officers and civilians.
Roadblocks were immediately put in place, effectively cutting off the neighbourhood from the rest of the region.
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You might get arrested any time, get shot or killed directly, which has already happened.
Local resident speaking anonymously
Social media has been inundated with footage of the devastation in Awamiyah, with images showing bulldozers and armed vehicles patrolling the debris-strewn streets.
Images have also emerged showing bullet-ridden buildings and dangling wires.
Some video footage shows cars set alight, with reports that the government has imposed strict restrictions on anyone entering or leaving the besieged town as the fighting continues.
Residents in the town have spoken to reporters from RT on the promise of anonymity, for fear of repercussions.
One man said: “You might get arrested any time, get shot or killed directly, which has already happened. Some people got shot in that area.
He said clashes have been ongoing “almost all night and day” and added: “All the entrances to Awamiyah are closed with checkpoints.
“Sometimes it is closed completely. You cannot enter or exit Awamiyah.”
Residents fear for their lives in the Saudi Arabian town of Awamiyah
Residents believe there are many possible explanations for the crackdown on the 400-year-old neighbourhood.
One of these could possibly be the forceful renovations in the town enforced by Saudi authorities, ignoring protests by residents and calls from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to “halt the forced evictions and demolition”.
However, another local resident believes that the ultimate goal of the Saudi authorities is to silence dissent, with which Awamiyah has been associated since 2011.
Residents say the fighting is almost constant in Awamiyah
Awamiyah is the native town of influential Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was also Imam in a mosque there.
Mr Nimr was controversially executed in January 2016 after Riyadh charged him with terrorism.
He was considered to be one of the leaders behind the 2011 protest movement, and was a vocal critic of the Saudi government’s treatment of Shia minority.
His death sparked worldwide protests last year.