Four die in eastern Saudi Arabia police raid

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Two police officers and two men they were trying to arrest have been killed in a gunfight in Saudi Arabia's restive Eastern Province, officials say.

The interior ministry said the officers came under fire while trying to detain "armed troublemakers" in al-Awamiya, and had "responded to the source".

It named the civilians who were killed as Ali al-Faraj and Hussein al-Faraj.

However, opposition activists said there had been no exchange of fire and that the two men had been unarmed.

The police officers had burst into the house of a man in search of his wanted brother who was not there, they added.

Ali, the house owner's 22-year-old son, was shot 11 times while running away, one activist told the Reuters news agency. Hussein, a 34-year-old local photographer, died "as he documented the raid", the activist said.

The local news website mirataljazeera.net said Hussein had documented anti-government demonstrations and the funerals of the more than 20 people who have been killed in Eastern Province since early 2011.

Protesters 'sentenced'

The oil-rich Eastern Province is home to a Shia majority that has long complained of marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni ruling family.

Protests erupted there when the pro-democracy uprising in neighbouring Bahrain, which has a Shia majority and a Sunni royal family, was crushed with the assistance of Saudi and other Gulf troops.

The Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia and blame Iran.

In 2012, they named 23 suspects - reportedly among them Ali al-Faraj's uncle - in connection with the disturbances in Eastern Province, accusing them of possessing illegal weapons and opening fire on the public and police. Several have since either been killed or captured.

Activists say that of the more than 950 people arrested since 2011 for involvement in the unrest, 217 are still being held.

On Wednesday, a court sentenced several people to up to 20 years in prison for joining a protest in Eastern Province and chanting anti-government slogans, according to the AFP news agency.

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