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Bahrain Police Open Fire on Sit-In

Bahrain Police Open Fire on Sit-In Bahrain Police Open Fire on Sit-In

Bahrain police on Tuesday opened fire on a long-running sit-in in support of a leading Shia cleric in the Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf state, hit by years of unrest.

Witnesses said there were multiple civilians wounded in the raid targeting the months-long sit-in in Diraz, the hometown of cleric Isa Qassim, Middle East Eye reported.

Local reports and statements from rights groups, said one protester had died of injuries. The Britain-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy reported the “tragic death of a peaceful protester in the crackdown”.

Bahrain’s Interior Ministry on Tuesday said it had “launched a security operation in the village of Diraz to preserve security and civil order as the site is a safe haven for fugitives.”

Activist Ebtasam Alsaegh, from the neighboring village of Bani Jamra, told Reuters she could hear police firing birdshot.

“The situation is terrifying ... It’s making people really angry and the young men are taking to the streets. The mosque speakers are calling out ‘God is Great’, urging people to come out and protect Sheikh Qassim,” she said by phone.

Other pictures posted by activists showed at least 10 armored police cars lining up, officers shooting tear gas canisters and masked protesters erecting road blocks with planks and cinder blocks.

Reuters was not able to confirm their authenticity.

Qassim was sentenced on Sunday to a suspended one-year jail term for illegal fundraising. He was also stripped of citizenship last year, sparking the sit-in outside his residence in Diraz.

Human Rights Watch condemned the Diraz operation as a crackdown on freedom of expression.

“Yet again the architects of bloody destabilizing violence in Bahrain appear to be the Al Khalifa government, and the timing of this operation-two days after King Hamad’s convivial meeting with President Trump-can hardly be a coincidence,” the group said in a statement.

Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since security forces crushed Shia-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister in 2011.

Despite repeated calls from their western allies, Bahrain’s rulers have made no concessions to the Shia opposition and have intensified a crackdown on critics.

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