18 Mar 2011

Opposition arrests follow Bahrain crackdown

9:56 am on 18 March 2011

Bahrain has arrested at least six opposition leaders, a day after its crackdown on protests among the Shi'ite Muslim majority drew rare United States criticism and raised fears of a regional conflict.

State television says the leaders of the civil strife have been arrested for communicating with foreign countries and inciting murder and the destruction of property.

It did not specify who had been arrested.

Bahraini forces used tanks and helicopters to clear a protest camp in the capital, Manama, that had become a symbol of their demand for more democratic rights in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Three police and three protesters died in the crackdown.

The crackdown prompted sympathy protests from Shi'ites across the region, including in Saudi Arabia, which had sent troops to help Bahrain's government.

The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner has urged the authorities in Bahrain to rein in their security forces, citing allegations that they have beaten and arbitrarily detained protesters.

Navi Pillay says she is alarmed at reports of a military take-over of hospitals, which is a blatant violation of international law.