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Authorities arrest Bahraini opposition leaders

Bahraini authorities have rounded up and arrested six leading opposition activists as the regime continues its crackdown on anti-government protesters. This comes after five people died in clashes on Wednesday.

Pearl square

Bahraini security forces have cracked down on anti-government protesters

Five Shiite opposition activists and one Sunni leader were arrested by authorities Thursday, as the regime continued its crackdown on anti-government protests.

One of those arrested is a leader of the hardline Shiite Haq movement which has been seeking to overthrow the Sunni minority-led monarchy.

It comes a day after three protesters and two policemen were killed following violent clashes between the two sides.

"This is a war of annihilation," is how Abdel Jalil Khalil, a senior politician in Bahrain's largest Shiite party, Wefaq, described the situation. "This does not happen even in wars and this is not acceptable," he added.

Bahrain's king has imposed a three-month long state of emergency in an effort to quell the growing unrest. The move authorizes the armed forces to take all measures necessary to crack down on the protests that started last month.

The EU and the US have called on both sides to show restraint and urged immediate dialogue. "We also call on the security forces to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to assemble freely and peacefully," said a spokeswoman for the EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

On Monday around 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain to protect government facilities. Bahrain is a key Washington ally and home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

The troops are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force, the the six-member bloc that coordinates military and economic policy in the world's top oil-exporting region.

Threat to Sunni rule

Bahraini police fire rubber bullets at an opposition protester at close range

Bahraini police fire rubber bullets at an opposition protester at close range

Bahrain's opposition said it viewed any foreign military intervention as occupation.

"We consider the arrival of any soldier, or military vehicle, into Bahraini territory... an overt occupation of the kingdom of Bahrain and a conspiracy against the unarmed people of Bahrain," said an opposition statement.

An alliance of seven opposition groups said the intervention "violates international conventions."

It called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, and appealed for the international community to act to ensure the "protection of the people of Bahrain from the danger of foreign military intervention."

Sign outside the US Embassy in Manama, Bahrain

Protesters urge the US to stop supporting the Bahraini government

Bahrain has been gripped by its worst unrest since the 1990s after protesters took to the streets last month, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.

Any intervention by Gulf Arab troops in Bahrain is highly sensitive on the island, where the Shiite Muslim majority complains of discrimination by the Sunni Muslim royal family.

Most Gulf Arab ruling families are Sunni and intervention could be seen by local Shiites as an assault. This, in turn, could encourage intervention by non-Arab Iran, the main Shiite power in the region. Accusations already abound of Iranian backing for Shiite activists in Bahrain, claims Tehran denies.

Author: Rob Mudge (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Michael Knigge

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