Five people were killed in Bahrain on Tuesday when police opened fire on a protest by supporters of a top cleric in a Shia village, the interior ministry said, in the latest unrest to hit the Sunni-ruled Gulf state.
“Five deaths have been registered among the outlaws” in Diraz, near the capital of Manama, where the police opened fire to disperse the sit-in outside the home of cleric Isa Qassim, the ministry said in a Twitter message.
Witnesses had earlier told that several civilians were wounded when police officers fired at demonstrators throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at security forces.
“A total of 286 arrests were made, including fugitives that had escaped from Jau Prison,” the ministry said.
“Several terrorists and convicted felons were also apprehended with a large number of them hiding in the residence of Isa Qassim,” it added.
Qassim is considered the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s majority Shiite community.
A US State Department official said Washington was “concerned” by the reports of protesters killed and was following events in Bahrain very closely.
“We urge restraint on all sides in responding to Wednesday’s developments and call on all parties to contribute to a climate conducive for dialogue and reconciliation,” the official told AFP.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the deadly crackdown by Bahraini forces on protesters was the “first concrete result” of US President Donald Trump “cozying up to despots” in Saudi Arabia.
– ‘A blank cheque’ for repression –
In a meeting with Bahrain’s King Hamad in Saudi Arabia at the weekend, Trump made a clear break from previous US policy.
The US leader told the king on Sunday it was “a great honour to be with you” and said there “has been a little strain but there won’t be strain with this administration.”
The Britain-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said Trump had “effectively (given) King Hamad a blank cheque to continue the repression of his people.”
It said the US had “blood on its hands” for supplying arms to Bahrain despite what it called an “intensified repressive campaign on civil society in Bahrain.”