Wednesday 21 February 2018

Police round up opposition leaders in Bahrain

Ben Farmer in Manama

BAHRAIN police rounded up opposition leaders at gunpoint and took over a hospital yesterday as the kingdom continued a violent crackdown on protesters despite international calls for restraint.

Security forces again clashed with Shia demonstrators as the Sunni monarchy sought to quell the month-long protest movement, which is calling for constitutional reform. The capital Manama was tense but calm as troops in armoured vehicles funnelled traffic into checkpoints.

Security forces took control of Salmaniya medical centre, Manama's main hospital. Doctors and opposition figures alleged that wounded Shia protesters were denied treatment and staff were harassed.

Seven opposition figures were seized, including Hassan Mushaima, the leading dissident, who had recently returned from exile. They have been accused of contacting foreign states and inciting murder and vandalism, according to a statement from military officials.

The UN condemned the hospital takeover as "a blatant violation of international law". Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of the Wefaq, the largest opposition group, called for a UN investigation and urged Saudi Arabia to withdraw its forces from Bahrain. More than 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered the country on Monday at the request of King Hamad after a weekend of violence.

The British Government has advised the 7,000 Britons in Bahrain to leave . Hundreds of expatriate workers have left.

Mohammed al-Maskati of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, claimed the crackdown had so far failed to snuff out the protest. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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