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Saudi Arabia says Shi'ite judge killed by kidnappers

RIYADH (Reuters) - A Shi'ite Muslim judge abducted in eastern Saudi Arabia a year ago has been killed by his kidnappers, the Saudi state news agency SPA reported on Monday.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Jirani disappeared last December from outside his home in the Qatif region, which is home to about one million Shi'ite Muslims in the predominantly Sunni Muslim kingdom.

SPA said a security officer and one of the kidnappers were killed in a clash on Dec. 19 and a second kidnapper was arrested. It also said the judge's body had been found in the remote farming district of Awamiya but did not say when he had been killed.

Authorities said earlier this year that three men being sought in connection with the abduction were already on a wanted list for their suspected involvement in "terrorist attacks" in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Since 2011 the region has been shaken by frequent, though mostly peaceful, protests by the Shi'ite minority.

However, Shi'ite militants, angry over what they say is repression of their community, have sometimes attacked Saudi security forces in the oil-producing Eastern Province where Qatif is located.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

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