On Monday, January 7, Saudi security forces carried out an anti-insurgency operation in the village of Umm al-Hamam near Qatif (Eastern province). According to security officials, at least six militants were killed and one more arrested in the raid. During the operation, Saudi forces seized weapons and large quantities of ammunition. A heightened security presence is to be expected in Qatif and its environs over the coming days. Further security operations, as well as clashes between militants and security forces, cannot be ruled out.
Saudi security forces have conducted numerous security operations in Eastern Province in recent years, mostly against Shi'a militants classified by the Saudi government as terrorist organizations. Sporadic clashes between these militants and security forces occur frequently in the province (especially in Qatif and Dammam). The Islamic State (IS) has also previously launched attacks on Shi'a communities in Qatif.
Generally speaking, sociopolitical tensions are high in the province, which is mostly populated by Shi'a Muslims, whereas the rest in the rest of the country the majority of the population is Sunni. Since 2011, Saudi Arabia's Shi'a Muslims have staged numerous demonstrations against what they see as the systematic economic marginalization of their community by the central government.
Individuals in Eastern Province are advised to monitor the situation. More generally, given the prevailing terrorist risk in Saudi Arabia, those present in the country are advised to exercise caution at all times, avoid public places lacking adequate security measures or locations deemed particularly likely to be targeted in the event of an attack (e.g. official buildings, military zones, etc.), and report all suspicious objects or behavior to authorities.
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