RIYADH : A Saudi soldier was killed and two members of the security forces wounded when an explosive device went off during a patrol in the Kingdom’s eastern Qatif province, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency that the blast, which it described as a “terrorist incident” had occurred late Sunday evening in the Masoura district.

In a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the ministry said that the blast occurred late Sunday evening in the Masoura district in the village of Awamiya. It described the explosion as a “terrorist incident”. The state news agency, citing the interior ministry, identified the dead soldier as Major Tariq Al-Allaqi. Security spokesman of Interior Ministry announces martyrdom of Major/ Tariq Al-Allaqi and two security personnel injured in Qatif province. pic.twitter.com/kQHQErQ5Zm.

The oil-rich eastern province of Qatif is mostly Shia, a minority in the kingdom. 

The SPA has reported an increase in clashes between Shia fighters and security forces in Masoura in recent weeks after the Saudi government sent in workers to demolish a 400-year-old walled neighbourhood there.

UN rights experts have urged the Saudi government to halt the demolition, saying the planned commercial zone threatened the town’s historical and cultural heritage and could result in the forced eviction of hundreds of people from their businesses and residences.

In May, another soldier was killed and five others injured in Masoura after they were hit by a grenade while on patrol, the SPA said.

It said “terrorist elements” had carried out the attack “to impede the development projects in Al-Masoura”.

Earlier this month, two men were killed there when their car exploded on a main street. The interior ministry described the pair as “two wanted terrorists”.

A two-year-old Saudi boy and a Pakistani man were also killed in clashes in Masoura in May.

The Shia community in Saudi Arabia accounts for somewhere between 10 to 15 percent of the total population.

They have protested in the past over alleged marginalisation in the kingdom.