7 Shiite activists arrested in Bahrain
( AP ) - Bahraini security forces stormed the houses of the country's most outspoken Shiite opposition group at dawn Friday, arresting at least seven of its members, the group said.
The arrests came after a week of clashes between Shiites and security forces for the Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf kingdom.
"This is unprecedented, they snatched young men from their houses," HAQ spokesman Ali Mushaima told The Associated Press in a phone call from London.
In Manama, the Bahraini capital, the Interior Ministry declined to comment on the arrests, but said it would issue a statement later in the day.
Shiites account for about 70 percent of Bahrain's 450,000 citizens, but the ruling family is Sunni. Economic disparities between the ruling elite and the poorer majority have contributed to feelings of marginalization among Shiites, who have waged an occasionally violent campaign against the government.
On Thursday, the Shiite Islamist-led HAQ Movement for Liberty and Democracy and security forces clashed in a northern province. The confrontation, the third in a week, was sparked by the death of a protester earlier in the week after a clash with police at a rally.
Angry Shiites hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who in turn fired tear gas and rubber bullets. At least four opposition supporters and one policeman were reported injured and one police car was set ablaze.
Police and protesters clashed violently first on Monday, during demonstrations marking 10 years since a leading Shiite figure died in a wave of protests against perceived discrimination.
One demonstrator, Ali Jassem, died after inhaling tear gas in Monday's clashes.
Following Jassem's funeral, confrontations renewed Tuesday. Riot police entered the small Shiite village of Jedhafs in the northern tip of the island and attacked some 1,500 mourners, according to Mohammed al-Mokhareq, a photographer for a local media who ended up in the hospital after passing out from tear gas inhalation.
Authorities, however, described Tuesday's violence as an unruly mob bent on destroying public property that required the intervention of security forces.
The kingdom is a close U.S. ally. The oil-refining and banking island also hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.