Gunmen armed with automatic rifles and pistols stormed a Bahraini prison on Sunday, killing a police officer and freeing 10 inmates convicted on terrorism charges, police said.
The attack on Jau Prison represents a significant escalation of the simmering unrest that has gripped the island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia since its 2011 Arab Spring protests. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault.
The attack sparked a manhunt across the island on Sunday.
Confusion about the escape at Jau Prison persisted for hours afterward, as the Bahraini Ministry of the Interior issued a series of tweets in Arabic and English contradicting each other.
Early yesterday morning, the ministry issued a statement saying the attack was launched by “a terrorist cell of four to six members armed with automatic rifles and pistols.”
It named the dead police officer as Abdulsalam Saif Ahmed and said a second officer sustained moderate wounds in the attack.
Bahraini residents described stepped-up checkpoints across the country on Sunday, a day that also saw clashes between police and locals in the community of Sitrah.
Bahrain, a small island off the coast of Saudi Arabia, hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base.
The nation has seen low-level unrest since its 2011 Arab Spring protests, which saw the nation’s Shiite majority and others demand more political freedoms from the country’s Sunni rulers.
The kingdom launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent in April last year, imprisoning some prominent political figures and forcing others into exile.
Activists, including imprisoned human rights advocate Nabeel Rajab, have alleged that Jau Prision has been the site of prisoner abuse.
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