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Bahrain raid on Shiite cleric’s town: 5 killed, 286 arrested

Bahraini police raid on the hometown of a prominent Shiite cleric facing possible deportation has left at least five demonstrators dead and 286 people arrested in an assault in which officers fired tear gas and shotguns at protesters.

(AP) -- The Interior Ministry said the operation on Tuesday targeting Diraz, home to Sheikh Isa Qassim and a long-running sit-in supporting him, was to "maintain security and public order." It called the area a "haven for wanted fugitives from justice."

Activists shared photographs and videos showing youths throwing stones and climbing on an armored personnel carrier. Gunfire could be heard in one video as white smoke from tear gas hung in the air. Another video showed a bulldozer smashing through the area that once hosted the sit-in.

Police arrested 286 people, including "terrorists and convicted felons" who hid inside of Qassim's home, the Interior Ministry said.

It said 19 members of the island's security forces were wounded in the raid that saw protesters throw gasoline bombs.

"Forces were able to remove a series of illegal road blocks and barricades," the ministry said in a statement. "Police remain deployed in the area to ensure the safety of people."

Amnesty International later said Qassim was not arrested.

At least five protesters were killed, activists and police said. Activists shared images of other protesters suffering what appeared to be birdshot wounds.

The operation followed a Sunday court decision giving Qassim a year's suspended prison sentence and seizing assets belonging to him and his ministry. Two of his aides received similar sentences.

Police have besieged Qassim's hometown of Diraz for months, tightly controlling access. He could be deported at any time after authorities stripped him of his citizenship last June over accusations that he fueled extremism. His supporters deny the allegations and called his trial politically motivated.

Shiites and others took part in 2011 Arab Spring protests for greater rights from the Sunni monarchy of Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base. Bahrain put down the protests with the help of forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Source: Al-Alam News Network


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