German diplomats survive gun attack in Saudi Arabia

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Originally published on January 14, 2014

Two German diplomats survived an attack on their vehicle as they were travelling in eastern Saudi Arabia on Monday evening (January 13). The diplomats were driving through the town of Awamiya when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their vehicle.

According to reports from Al Jazeera news, a Saudi police spokesperson said the two diplomats were assisted by a Saudi Citizen who ushered them to safety. The diplomats vehicle was then set on fire by the assailants. It is unknown if the diplomats were specifically targeted.

In Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry confirmed the few known details about the attack and confirmed that the two diplomats had survived. She said the German embassy in Riyadh will open an investigation into the incident.

Attacks on foreign embassy personnel in Saudi Arabia are rare, but the eastern area of that nation is home to minority Shi'ite Muslims who complain of discrimination in Sunni Muslim majority Saudi Arabia. Sectarian strife in the area have risen since 2011, but the 2012 arrest of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a man seen as a leader of the Shi'ite minority group and critic of the Saudi government, escalated tensions and sporadic violent protests have occurred in Awamiya, which is located along the eastern shore of Saudi Arabia, some 100 kilometers from the island emirate of Bahrain, which has also seen sectarian related violence.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, is ruled by a Sunni Muslim monarchy. Critics accuse the Saudi government of human rights violations,but some steps towards sectarian reconciliation have begun, starting with a call last year by King Abdullah to create a Sunni-Shi'ite interfaith dialogue center.

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