Bahrain police raid Shiite cleric's town, 1 dead

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Bahrain police arrested 50 "fugitives", including prison escapees "convicted over terrorism" charges, the Nahrain interior ministry said earlier.

Already, Trump's administration had approved a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the State Department under President Barack Obama. Demonstrators had been taking part in a sit-in outside Qassim's after authorities revoked the cleric's citizenship previous year on vague charges of aiding a foreign state.

It came as Bahraini regime forces launched a full-scale attack on Diraz, the hometown of the top Shia cleric, killing at least two protesters and wounding some two dozen others while trying to disperse his supporters with birdshots and tear gas canisters.

The Interior Ministry said the operation targeting the town, home to Sheikh Isa Qassim and a long-running sit-in supporting him, was to "maintain security and public order".

The shift in White House rhetoric on Bahrain continues Trump's conciliatory line on strongmen and authoritarian governments that have shared interests with Washington. Reuters was not able to confirm their authenticity.

"The situation is terrifying", she told Reuters by phone. It's making people really angry and the young men are taking to the streets.

Ebtasam Alsaegh, from the neighbouring village of Bani Jamra, said mosques were calling residents onto the streets to protect Qassim.

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Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari said he had raised the "massacre" committed by the U.S. "aggressor" with the UN. A road between Iraq and Syria would facilitate further assistance from Iran, which is a strong backer of Assad.

Bahrain in 2011 crushed an uprising by its majority Shi'ite community demanding reforms giving them more representation in the country, ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa monarchy. It accuses elements of the opposition of seeking to overthrow it by force with help from arch-foe Iran.

Bahraini MP Abdullah bin Huwail said in a statement the security operation showed the government's resolve to confront an Iranian-backed security threat. It called the area a "haven for wanted fugitives from justice".

Trump told Bahrain's king on Sunday it was "a great honour to be with you" and said there "has been a little strain but there won't be strain with this administration".

Bahrain denies any discrimination.

Although the USA has a long history of looking the other way on human rights when it is strategically or economically beneficial, the Trump administration has at times signaled that it is willing to do away with even the most milquetoast of condemnations if it could jeopardize potential deals.

"The timing of this operation - two days after King Hamad's convivial meeting with President Trump - can hardly be a coincidence", said Nicholas McGeehan, a senior Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch.

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