RIYADH: A homemade explosive device has killed a senior Saudi police officer in a Shiite town where deadly violence has flared in recent weeks, the Interior Ministry said yesterday. Major Tariq Al-Alaqi was killed and two other policemen were wounded in the blast late Sunday in Awamiya, the ministry said in a statement. They were patrolling the town's Almosara neighborhood, where unrest has escalated in recent weeks around a redevelopment project in the old district. Alaqi is at least the fourth person to have been killed in the violence. The Interior Ministry has said criminals involved in the drug and arms trade were implicated in the unrest.

Last month, gunmen killed two civilians and a rocket-propelled grenade left a policeman dead in the area. The United Nations has urged Saudi Arabia to halt demolition of the 400-year-old Almosara district, which it says has caused "injury, deaths and material losses to the civilians". Awamiya, in Eastern Province, has seen repeated security incidents in recent years, following protests that began in 2011 and developed into a call for equality. Most of Saudi Arabia's Shiites live in Eastern Province and have long complained of marginalization in the Sunni-ruled kingdom._ AFP