Bahraini authorities say they have stripped the citizenship of a senior member of the "Islamic State" militant group and dozens of other people. The list includes Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
Bahrain has revoked the citizenship of 72 people - the highest single-day number since a 2013 law permitting such punishment went into effect - for damaging security, state news agency BNA reported.
Those whose citizenships were revoked include well-known Sunni and Shiite Muslims, suggesting the move did not focus solely on the protracted unrest by Bahrain's Shiite majority under the Sunni monarchists. Those affected include Turki al-Binali (pictured), a 30-year-old Sunni preacher who has emerged as a leading ideologue in the largely Sunni "Islamic State" (IS) group.
The Interior Ministry revoked the citizenships "to protect the security and stability of Bahrain," BNA reported, as well as "to confront terrorist dangers and challenges, given that some citizens are acting to undermine the interests of the kingdom."
Bahrain partners with the US, fellow Arab monarchies and several other nations in an air war against IS, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq. Gulf countries have tried to root out IS sympathizers from among their citizens and bar them from traveling to the war zone or carrying out attacks at home, although it remains unclear whether Bahrain announced the stripped citizenships as part of those efforts.
‘Without any charges'
Bahrain has faced four years of unrest, and many more years of allegations of rights violations, with its Shiite majority pushing for greater rights from the Sunni monarchy, a close ally to the United States. The country has revoked the citizenship of opposition activists in the past.
"The governor of Bahrain revoked my citizenship today without any charges or clear evidence of why," UK-based Bahraini blogger and activist Ali Abdulemam wrote Saturday on Twitter.
The ruling Al Khalifa family used martial law and help from Gulf neighbors such as Saudi Arabia to put down a Shiite-led Arab Spring uprising against alleged discrimination in 2011, but unrest has simmered. Police have often engaged with Shiite protesters over the last few years.
Rights groups report that at least 89 people have died in clashes with security forces since 2011 and police have arrested hundreds. The main opposition Shiite party boycotted elections in the fall after a court ruled to disqualify the faction just ahead of the vote.
The US has based its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain as a bulwark against Shiite Iran, which lies across the Persian Gulf. Bahraini officials have accused Iran of encouraging the unrest and have promised a tough response as talks with the opposition have stalled. Iranian officials have denied meddling in Bahrain's affairs.
mkg/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP)