Sat, Mar 19, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Bahrainis bury activist amid Shiite crackdown

Reuters, MANAMA

Thousands of Bahrainis gathered yesterday to bury an activist killed in a crackdown on mainly Shiite Muslim protesters that has angered Iran and raised tensions in the world’s largest oil-exporting region.

Mourners carrying black flags and pictures of activist Ahmed Farhan, who was killed on Wednesday, waited at the cemetery for his body to arrive. No security forces were present and it was unclear if police would disperse the mourners under a blanket ban on public gatherings.

“This is a big loss ... They can say what they want about us, but we are non-violent. We will never use violence,” said Yousif Hasan Ali, who was in jail with Farhan, 30, for more than two years. “They may silence this generation, but another will rise up to demand revenge for the blood that was shed now.”

Bahrain has arrested seven opposition leaders and driven pro-democracy demonstrators from the streets after weeks of protests that drew in troops from its -fellow Sunni-ruled neighbors and prompted the king to declare martial law.

Three protesters died in the security sweep. Three policemen also were killed, hit by demonstrators in fast-moving cars.

The crackdown has drawn sympathy protests from Shiites across the region, including top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which has sent more than 1,000 troops into its tiny neighbor.

Shiite Muslim power Iran, which supports Shiite groups in Iraq and Lebanon, has complained to the UN and asked other neighbors to join it in urging Saudi Arabia to withdraw.

Its call was echoed on Thursday by Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of Bahrain’s largest Shiite Muslim party, Wefaq.

“How could one accept a government to invite foreign military forces to suppress its own citizens?” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also addressed to the Arab League.

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