AFP file photo

(Reuters) – Two suspected militants and two security officers were killed in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in a gunbattle linked to an investigation into an earlier shooting in the east of the kingdom, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Two security officers were wounded in the gunbattle in the town of Buraida, north of the capital Riyadh, SPA said, citing an Interior Ministry statement. 

The statement added that 15 people had been detained on suspicion of involvement in Monday night’s shooting of five people at a Shi’ite Muslim place of worship in the al-Ahsa district of Eastern Province in the Sunni-majority country.

Monday’s attack is likely to test already strained relations between Sunnis and Shi’ites across the Middle East because it coincided with the annual Ashoura commemoration of Shi’ite Islam.

“The presence of a number of people suspected of involvement in commissioning the terrorist crime was noted, and that they gathered in rest areas in the al-Mualimin district of Buraida in Qassim Province,” the statement said.

It added that the gunfight started when the suspects fired machine guns at police attempting to arrest them, leading to a gunbattle. It named the slain security officers as Captain Mohammed al-Onaizi and Corporal Turki al-Rashid.