Bahrain claims Hizbollah trained plotters in Lebanon and Iran

BEIRUT // The Bahraini government has reportedly appealed to the United Nations over accusations that the Lebanese Shiite movement Hizbollah has been directly involved in a plot to overthrow the country's ruling family.

A report published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal claims the Bahraini government sent a letter to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon last week, detailing allegations that Hizbollah provided training in Lebanon and Iran for members of Bahrain's opposition movement.

"Several terrorist acts carried out in Bahrain have revealed that many Bahraini Shiites received military training from Lebanon's Hizbollah," the letter reads. "Evidence confirms that Bahraini elements are being trained in Hizbollah camps specifically established to train assets from the Gulf."

This is not the first time the Bahraini government has made such claims. Late last month, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al Khalifa, the country's foreign minister, also alleged that Hizbollah had provided military training to groups taking part in pro-reform protests.

Hizbollah previously denied the allegations, describing the claims as "false accusations" aimed at misleading "the public about the peaceful movement of the oppressed Bahraini people".

Since pro-democracy protests began on February 14, about 30 people have been killed and 500 detained, according to opposition groups.

State media announced on Sunday that the military prosecutor would pursue the death penalty for seven men arrested on charges of killing two policemen during the recent anti-government protests.

According to the Bahrain News Agency (BNA), the prosecutor claimed that the accused had attacked the policemen for "terrorist reasons", and called "for inflicting the capital punishment on them".

Lawyers representing the seven men said they denied the charges.

Security forces have also been accused of demolishing 30 mosques. Matar Ibrahim, a member of Bahrain's main opposition group Al Wefaq, said 10 mosques were demolished in the village of Nuwaidrat in one night alone last week.

"This is about inflaming sectarian tensions and they want the message to go out that they are protecting Sunnis against the Shia," Mr Ibrahim said yesterday.

While he did not confirm the number of buildings destroyed, Sheikh Khalid bin Ali al Khalifa, the minister of justice, said late last week that structures had been torn down because they were "unlicensed buildings".

While the pro-democracy demonstrations have been largely quelled in the last month, the government's crackdown on the opposition continues. An estimated 500 people have been detained, including leading members of the opposition, lawyers, human rights activists and doctors.

Even athletes have been caught up in the mass arrests, with the Bahrain Football Association confirming yesterday that three players from the national team have been detained. The association said six clubs in the island kingdom's domestic league have withdrawn from the competition.

In addition to arrests, there have been reports of 900 people who are believed to have been part of the protest movement being fired from their jobs in recent weeks.

* With additional reporting by Associated Press

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