RIYADH - A Saudi policeman was shot dead and three were wounded during a raid which devolved into a gun battle in the eastern Saudi city of Awamiya, state news agency SPA said.

“An exchange of fire led to the injury of Corporal Majid bin Turki al-Qahtani, and his death after being taken to hospital - may God have mercy on him and accept him as a martyrs - and wounded three security men, a citizen, and a (foreign) resident,” SPA said. The agency said forces undertook the search against “terrorist elements” and retrieved automatic weapons, pistols and communication equipment. It added that four Saudis were arrested after firefight for targeting the officers. Tension is growing in the country’s Eastern province, one of the main centres of the minority community, as neighbouring Yemen, Iraq and Syria contend with violent sectarian conflict.

More than 20 people have been killed in the unrest since then, most of them local people shot in incidents that police have described as exchanges of fire. rights activists say some of those killed were shot dead while peacefully protesting, which the government denies.