Hundreds of Bahraini Shia Muslims angered by a raid last week on a top cleric’s home clashed with police yesterday, while thousands more gathered in the cleric’s village for a peaceful sit-in against the government.

The raid by security forces on the home of Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim on May 17 infuriated the opposition and drew condemnation from Iran.

Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since mass pro-democracy protests erupted in 2011.

The mass protests were crushed but smaller demonstrations continue.

The raid on the ayatollah’s house prompted main opposition group Al Wefaq to announce on Wednesday that it would withdraw from reconciliation talks with the government for two weeks.

Protesters in the village of Diraz, west of the capital Manama, threw stones at hundreds of riot police who responded with teargas and water cannons, a witness said.

The violence continued for more than an hour before the demonstrators dispersed, the witness said.

Protesters at the sit-in, called by Al Wefaq and authorised by the government, waved Bahraini flags and held up images of Sheikh Issa.

Police say the raid on the cleric’s home was not targeted but occurred during a security operation in the same neighbourhood.


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