Activists: Bahrain police raid Shia cleric's town, 1 dead

AP , Tuesday 23 May 2017

Sheik Isa Qassim, Bahrain
Sheik Isa Qassim, Bahrain's top Shiite Muslim cleric (AP)

Bahrain police firing tear gas and shotguns entered a town on Tuesday morning where a monthslong sit-in has supported a prominent Shia cleric who had his citizenship stripped by the government. At least one protester was killed and others were wounded, activists said.

Bahrain's Interior Ministry earlier wrote on Twitter that the operation targeting Diraz was to "maintain security and public order." It called the area a "haven for wanted fugitives from justice."

It's unclear who the raid was targeting in Diraz, home to Sheikh Isa Qassim. Authorities offered no other details. Later, Bahrain's Interior Ministry later tweeted it had "arrested a number" of people wanted by authorities, without elaborating.

Activists shared mobile phone stills and videos showing youths throwing stones and climbing on an armored personnel carrier. Gunfire could be heard as white smoke from tear gas hung in the air.

At least one protester was killed, said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. Activists shared images of other protesters suffering what appeared to be birdshot wounds.

The operation follows 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.

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