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Saudi minister of culture and information replaced

November 5, 2014

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia replaced the country’s minister of culture and information Wednesday after he ordered the closure of an Islamist television channel in the wake of a deadly attack on the country’s Shiite minority.

The official Saudi Press Agency said King Abdullah replaced minister Abdulaziz bin Mohiuddin Khoja at Khoja’s own request, without giving reasons for the move. He will be replaced on an interim basis by Minister of Hajj Bandar bin Mohammed Hamza Asaad Hajjar.

Khoja hours earlier had posted a message on his Twitter account saying he ordered the closure of the Wesal television channel’s Riyadh office and an end to its broadcasts. The channel has aired programming and messages hostile to Shiite Muslims. It was unclear if Khoja’s departure was related to the order.

Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority has long complained of discrimination. Many in the ultraconservative Saudi Wahhabi school of Islam view Shiites as heretics, and the government is suspicious of nearby Shiite powerhouse Iran.

Masked gunmen late Monday attacked a Shiite shrine in eastern Saudi Arabia as worshippers were marking Ashoura, which commemorates the 7th-century death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and an iconic Shiite martyr. The attack left at least five people dead and several others wounded.

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