05/24/2017, 11.14
BAHRAIN
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Bahrain, police raid on a Shiite village: five dead, several arrests

The clashes took place in Diraz, near Manama, home of Shiite leader Sheikh Isa Qassim. Police opened fire on demonstrators, who responded with rockets and Molotov cocktails. Analysts and experts point out the coincidence between the raid against Shiite opponents and the meeting between King Hamad and Trump in Riyadh.

Manama (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Five demonstrators dead and dozens of injured is the latest outcome of yesterday's riots in Bahrain, a Shiite-majority village, between residents and security agents. The violence broke out in Diraz, near the capital Manama, the village of the Shiite leader and spiritual leader of the main opposition party Sheikh Isa Qassim.

Local sources report that the police opened fire on demonstrators, triggering an escalation of tension. According to the authorities, the security forces have been stifling an outbreak of protests in the area for months.

New violence is likely to worsen divisions between the ruling Sunni dynasty and the majority  Shiite Muslim population. In a note the Interior Ministry reports the arrest of numerous "fugitives" and confirms the five deaths among "outlaws".

The raid comes two days after the meeting between Bahrain Hamad Ben Issa al-Khalifa and US President Donald Trump on an official visit to Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and a one-year prison sentence (suspended sentence) handed down to Sheikh Qassim for corruption. Last year the authorities had deprived him of his citizenship because he would have used his position and his role to "serve the interests" of "foreign" powers.

Hence the decision of his supporters to repeatedly promote demonstrations and protest marches near his home, forcefully repressed by the authorities. The agents used bullets and tear gas, on demonstrators who responded by throwing stones and Molotov bombs. According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird) group based in London, one of the victims is the environmentalist Mohammed Khadim Zain al-Din.

Local politicians and analysts point to the proximity between the raid promoted by the authorities against the protesters and the meeting between Trump and King Hamad. A timing "that cannot be chance", considering the statements of the White House tenant that relations between Manama and Washington will not be "tense" as they were under Obama. The predecessor had repeatedly criticized the Sunni Arab leadership for the numerous human rights violations.

Bahrain is a Gulf monarchy ruled by a Sunni dynasty in a country where the majority of the population (at least 60-70%) is Shia and want constitutional changes and social and economic rights.

In 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring, riots broke out that the king of Bahrain – a US ally supported by Riyadh – put down with Saudi military aid.

Last year, authorities arrested and condemned Shiite activists and religious leaders and suspended the activities of Al-Wefaq, the leading Shi'ite opposition group. The accusation is of "terrorism, extremism and violence" as well as links to a foreign power (in short Iran).

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