DUBAI (Reuters) - A young Saudi man was killed during a raid by security forces in the restive town of Awamiya in the eastern part of the country, a local news website reported, in a development that could further stoke tensions in the area.
Saudi police denied any connection to the death of the young man and suggested it may be crime-linked.
Occasional unrest has erupted in the eastern part of the U.S.-allied kingdom since 2011 among minority Shi'ite Muslims who complain of discrimination. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, denies any discrimination and accuses Shi'ite-majority Iran of inciting tensions.
The website www.rasid.com quoted witnesses as saying that dozens of security vehicles blocked the roads into Awamiya on Thursday while forces raided the homes of two wanted activists on a list published by the authorities in January 2012.
"Information circulating around indicated that security forces opened fire during the raid, after which the youth Ahmed Ali al-Muslab fell," rasid said.
It quoted activists as saying that the youth was passing by the area of the raid when he was hit in the foot and back while trying to flee arrest. Activists had emailed what they said were photographs from the scene, showing walls and doors punctured by bullet holes.
A spokesman for Saudi police in the eastern region said the central hospital in Qatif notified police shortly after mid-day on Thursday that a dead man with gunshot wounds had been brought in by his father.
The police said the father told police afterwards that two masked men on a motorbike had brought the body of his son and dumped it in front of the house and fled.
"Security authorities began investigating and searching for the suspects," the police said in a statement sent to Reuters.
At least 21 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 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.
The Interior Ministry said on Thursday that one of the wanted men had turned himself in to authorities. The surrender cuts the number of people still at large on the original list to eight.
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi, editing by Mark Trevelyan)