Police fire teargas at Shia protest Bahrain


Police fired teargas and blocked roads in Manama yesterday to prevent thousands of Shia Muslims joining prayers led by one of their spiritual leaders, said witnesses.

The incident comes amid deepening tensions between the Gulf Arab kingdom and its US ally.

Bahrain hosts the US fifth fleet and has been volatile since majority Shia Muslims began protesting last year against what they said was discrimination, a charge the Sunni-led government denies.

Shia leaders had called for people to turn out in support of Sheikh Issa Qassim in his village of Diraz, west of the capital city, after the government warned clerics not to criticise the government or incite violence.

The call for mass prayers appeared to flout a ban on rallies and demonstrations announced by the interior ministry last month.

A ministry statement said security measures had been taken to "prevent those who were trying to exploit prayers to provoke hooliganism . . . and violate freedom of expression".

A 16-year-old was killed on a highway not far from Diraz in what the ministry said was a traffic accident. Activists said he had run onto a busy road while being chased by police. - (Reuter)