MAINZ, Germany - Two German diplomats survived a shooting attack which set their car on fire in Saudi Arabia, officials said Tuesday.
The envoys were on an “overland journey” in the east of the country – an area that has witnessed unrest between Shiite Muslims and Saudi authorities – when shots were fired.
“The vehicle of the diplomats was fired at and started to burn, but nobody was injured in the incident,” a spokeswoman for the Germany’s foreign ministry said.
A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said it could not comment on the matter, but sources in the country said the incident was being treated as a criminal matter, rather than an act of terrorism.
German media reported that the incident took place in the city of Awamiya. A police spokesman told regional news channel Al Jazeera that the diplomats were saved by a civilian.
Dieter Haller, the German ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told NBC News: "I have every confidence in the Saudi authorities who are doing their utmost to investigate this incident and am sure that they will not rest until it is solved."
Awamiya and other parts of Qatif district on the Gulf coast have witnessed unrest since 2011, and at least 20 people died as Shiite Muslim youths took to the streets to demand equal treatment from the Sunni Muslim-dominated government, Reuters reported.
Shiites accuse Saudi authorities of persistent discrimination against them and say some protesters have shot.
In its official travel advice for Saudi Arabia, the German foreign ministry warns of "the possibility of terror attacks."
Reuters contributed to this report. NBC News' Lubna Hussain reported from Riyadh.
This story was originally published on Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:15 AM EST