Death toll rises from Bahrain police protest shootings

Death toll rises from Bahrain police protest shootings
Bahrain is once again gripped with violence after police fired on protesters outside the home of a popular cleric.
2 min read
Bahrain has been rocked by protests and unrest [file photo-AFP]

Five people have been killed when police opened fire on protesters in Bahrain on Tuesday, as supporters of a jailed Shia cleric clash with security forces.

Police opened fire on a sit in in Diraz, close to the capital Manama, where a sit-in outside the home of cleric Isa Qassim was held.

"Five deaths have been registered among the outlaws" the interior ministry reported in a Twitter message.

Witnesses had earlier told AFP 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 Shia 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 today's developments and call on all parties to contribute to a climate conducive for dialogue and reconciliation," the official told AFP.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the deaths were the "first concrete result" of US President Donald Trump "cozying up to despots" in Saudi Arabia.

The events will likely embarressing for Washington, after Trump broke with previous US policy by meeting Bahrain's King Hamad in Saudi Arabia at the weekend.

He told the Bahraini leader it was "a great honour to be with you" and 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" and that the US has "blood on its hands" supplying Bahrain with arms.

The kingdom has been rocked by unrest since 2011, when local authorities backed by a Saudi military force crushed Shia-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.