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Qatif protesters hand themselves into Saudi authorities

Statement warns that people who 'harbour or conceal' any suspects in Qatif 'could face consequences'
Fighting continues in Qatif between Saudi forces and local groups (screengrab)

Three Saudi Arabians wanted in connection with protests, unrest and attacks on police in the Shiite-majority eastern district of Qatif turned themselves in Monday, the interior ministry has said.

The men were on a "list of 23 fugitives wanted for crimes" in Qatif, the ministry added in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

The statement also warned that people who "harbour or conceal" any suspects "could face consequences".

Qatif is home to a significant number of the Gulf kingdom's minority Shiites, who are estimated at around 10 percent of the population and who have long complained of marginalisation by the Sunni authorities.

Since 2011, there has been a crackdown on political dissent in Qatif which has seen a string of assaults on security forces in recent weeks.

Saudi Arabia's plans to redevelop Al-Mosara, a historic neighbourhood in the town of Awamiyah, have been met with stiff resistance from locals.

Images from the scenes of the most intense fighting in Awamiyah  - the home town of Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr who was executed by the Saudis earlier this year - show buildings gutted and reduced to rubble.

Six officers were wounded on Sunday when their patrol came under attack in Al-Masoura.

Residents estimate that at least 20,000 people have fled to towns and villages nearby. Up to 12 people have been killed in the past week: three policemen and nine civilians, residents say.

Last month, police shot three men wanted over what authorities said were "terrorist" attacks in Qatif. Authorities have blamed the violence on "terrorists" and drug traffickers.

Executions in Qatif

Four men were executed on July 11 after being convicted of "terrorist crimes", including attacks on police and riots in Qatif.

Amnesty International has warned that 14 other Saudis face imminent execution after a "grossly unfair mass trial" in which they were convicted of rioting, theft and rebellion in areas including Qatif.

Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest execution rates. The ultraconservative kingdom has executed more than 70 people this year.

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