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Bahrain arrests four after ‘terrorist attack’ on policemen

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Bahraini authorities arrested four people Tuesday in a dawn raid on a Shiite village, the opposition said, after seven policemen were wounded there in what officials claimed was a “terrorist attack.”

Al-Wefaq, the main opposition bloc, said that security forces arrested four people in the village of Akr, south of Manama, and “brutally” beat up relatives of those wanted by authorities in a crackdown which also left several wounded.

The arrests came hours after state news agency BNA quoted public security chief, General Tareq al-Hassan, as saying that an improvised bomb exploded late Monday near a police checkpoint at the entrance to Akr “wounding seven policemen, three of them critically.”

Hassan added that the initial investigation “revealed that the explosion was caused by a pipe bomb attached to a container full of gasoline.”

In a late Monday statement, Al-Wefaq said that it was closely “following the developments in Akr ... but we have no independent information” about the incident, adding that the village was “entirely surrounded by security forces who are imposing collective punishment.”

“We have received calls for help from village residents,” it said, adding that security forces are “using pellet guns” against the villagers.

Meanwhile, five opposition parties, including Al-Wefaq, called for the release of Hassan Mashaima, head of the radical Shiite opposition movement Haq who is serving a life sentence for allegedly plotting against the monarchy.

The groups said they are “following with serious concern the deteriorating health” of Mashaima.

They accused Bahraini authorities of “hiding” from Mashaima for four months that his cancer had returned for which he had been treated in Britain before being held in Bahrain.

“This is a crime (committed by authorities which is) punishable by law,” the groups said.

They called for his “immediate release” and for “giving him the right to choose a doctor he trusts as he has lost faith in the doctors who have examined him and hid the truth about his illness.”

Fears have also grown over the health of another activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is on hunger strike for almost two months, and who too has been condemned to life in jail over similar charges.

The interior ministry on Monday said that Khawaja, also a Danish citizen, was in “good health”, hours after his lawyer voiced fears that he might have died.

Demonstrations in Bahrain’s Shiite villages have increased in recent weeks as tensions between the authorities and the opposition escalated over the fate of Khawaja, who began his hunger strike on the night of February 8-9.

Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based NGO, has warned that Khawaja could die in jail.