DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has captured a man who features on a list of Shi'ites being sought in connection with unrest in the eastern part of the kingdom after a shootout with security forces, state news agency SPA reported late on Monday.
The agency quoted an Interior Ministry spokesman as saying that a security contingent raided a house in the town of Awamiya on information that the wanted man, Abbas Ali al-Mizre, was present there along with eight other people who are being sought for drugs offences.
"The security men came under extensive gunfire from the trouble makers to prevent them from capturing the wanted (men)," the spokesman said, according to SPA.
"The situation was dealt with appropriately and there were no casualties from the gunfire, thanks be to God," he added.
Saudi Arabia last year ordered the arrest of 23 Shi'ites in the Eastern Province, where many of the kingdom's minority Shi'ite Muslims live, saying they were responsible for unrest.
Last month, Saudi security forces shot and killed Hussein Hassan Al Rabieah, also on the list of 23 wanted men. He was among 11 people, including a member of the security forces, to have been killed in the Eastern Province since November.
At least 20 people have been shot dead in the region since early 2011, when Shi'ites there staged protests against the involvement of Saudi forces in ending demonstrations in neighboring Sunni-ruled Bahrain, which has a Shi'ite majority.
Saudi media said that of the original 23 people on the list announced in January 2012, only nine remain at large. The rest have either been captured, killed or turned themselves in.
Shi'ites accuse the authorities of persistent discrimination against them and say some of the dead were shot during protests.
Riyadh, a close U.S. ally and the world's top oil exporter, denies discriminating against Shi'ites and says all the killings resulted from exchanges of gunfire after police came under attack.
The arrest in June of radical Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was also wounded during his capture, prompted several days of protests in Qatif in which two people were killed.
Saudi Shi'ites say they lack opportunities afforded to Sunni Muslims when applying for jobs or university places and that the authorities often close their places of worship.
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi, editing by Gareth Jones)