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US Fleet Commander Met Head of Bahrain Defense Forces Before Crackdown; Opposition Leaders Arrested

After the Bahraini attack on the Pearl Roundabout and residents of local villages, and the siege of the Salmaniya Hospital, the next phase of the crackdown took place overnight with a roundup of leading activists and opposition leaders. I’ll have more on that in a minute, but first, I continue to be surprised by the claims coming from Washington that the White House and Pentagon had no idea the Saudis were heading into Bahrain or that the crackdown was prepared for this week.

This claim continues to ring ever-so-hollow given the visit from Sec. Defense Gates just two days beforehand, but there was another visit which has gone unnoticed in the American press that appears to make it even more unlikely. If you follow the Bahrain News Service (a state run operation), you would have read on Monday–the same day the Saudis crossed the causeway–that:

Manama – Mar 14 (BNA) — BDF Commander-in-Chief Marshal Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa has today received US 5th Fleet Commander General Mark Fox, who arrived on visit to Bahrain, and discussed bilateral ties and growing relations, particularly military coordination and defence cooperation. Issues of joint interest also came under the spotlight. BDF General Command Court director Major General Yusuf Ahmed Al Jalahma attended the audience. (emph. added)

There is no transcript or official statement from this meeting, but it’s beyond sense to think that the arrival of the Saudis and GCC forces and the plan to crackdown was not a topic. There’s even a nice photo of them having their chat, which you can view here.

There is, however, no mention of the visit or similar photo on the Fifth Fleet’s webpages.

I guess such a friendly meeting with the leader of the forces who attacked the peaceful protesters at Pearl, laid siege to the Salmaniya hospital and attacked multiple villages in the last few days is a bit too embarrassing.

We also won’t see any photos of the arrests of leading opposition activist in Bahrain overnight. Around 2AM Bahrain time, we started to see mentions on twitter that Haq Movement Secretary-General Hassan Mushaima, who had just recently returned to Bahrain from exile, as well as Ebrahim Sharif of the secular opposition group Al Wa’ad, and Al Singace of Haq were taken into custody, along with “some prominent activists,” according to an Al Jazeera English correspondent on an overnight broadcast. [more after the jump]

ABC News Australia reports:

In the past few hours, it has become clear that the government crackdown is now targeting individual opposition figures.

The son of one opposition figure, known as Hassan, told The World Today his family’s home was being raided as he spoke on the phone.

“They just went to our home. They’re calling me even now to tell me what’s going on. I have no idea what’s been… all I know is my sister said that they’re in our house and they’re bashing in… they’re breaking things,” he said.

He says the people raiding his home are definitely Saudi troops, and says his family is being targeted as a result of the recent uprising.

“My dad is still an opposition leader and they definitely will take it [out] upon the people they think that that are enforcing the ban, the people which they consider enemies, who are forcing the people to go out into the street and demand for their equal rights,” he said.

But the raid on Hassan’s home is not an isolated incident.

Sharif’s daughter, Yara Ebrahim Alsayed described her mother’s account of the arrest:

1:50 AM bell rings at Ebrahim Sharif’s residence. There are a lot of boys/men outside. My mother assumes they are um-alhassam boys/men who trashed the um-alhassam National Democratic Action Society (Wa3d) branch with Molotov cocktail bombs less than 20 hours ago .

Their faces are covered (mulathimeen). No indication that they are police from what they are wearing. After a while, they noticed men wearing all black. Mother says they assumed they were just thugs at first.

Parents came down to address the situation (Ebrahim Sharif and wife). As soon as they stepped out of the door they noticed one of the boys/men climbing the fence (shiga7 ilsoor). One of them was trying to open garage door after hopping the fence …?The first man who hopped the fence had a gun in his hand and pointed it towards Ebrahim Sharif. Ebrahim Sharif said “nazel il musadas” (“put down the gun”). Parents ask “WHO ARE YOU?”, someone replies “open the door!”…

Ebrahim Sharif remains calm. Mother says he put on his shoes and went out to talk to them…

During this time the some of the men outside start coming into the garden through the gate that was opened as mentioned in the last paragraph. Some were still on the road in front of the house. Mother and father walk outside to where the cars are and my mother notices 2 black cars, 2 jeep landcruisers, and about 3-4 small vehicles similar to corollas in size. Inside these small cars is about 4-5boys covered (mulathimeen).??All in all about 35-40 people outside the house. About 6 or 7 of the total are armed with rashashaat (guns).??Most of the men/boys are mulathimeen (covered), about two of them wearing white thoobs and ‘3itra is covering their mouths.

Mother says they have no idea where my father is right now. There is no way to contact him. She says they are waiting, praying, and hoping for the best. Hoping that the government will release an official statement in the morning of his whereabouts…

Yara continues:

May God have mercy on my father. He is not an extremist. The National Democratic Action Society (Wa3d) is a secular one, meaning it is NOT religiously-backed. He is not a violent person. He is peaceful. He asks for reform but has done so in a way where he has never laid a hand on someone and never resorted to violence. I will not be able to forgive the ones who lay a hand on him. Only God knows the truth. Allah Yaster. I’m thinking about you Baba, I love you so much. You make me proud by voicing your opinion and not being scared for your safety, but right now, that is all I am thinking about. You have taught your children to stand up for what they believe in, to educate themselves, to be open minded, and to listen to people. You have played your role in making me the strong woman I am today, but I have never felt so helpless.

I hope there are people out there who will protect him.

Today, Amnesty International is releasing a report, Bloodied but Unbowed: Unwarranted State Violence against Bahraini Protesters, on its investigation into Bahraini government violence against protesters in February. They note that:

“It is alarming to see the Bahraini authorities now again resorting to the same tactics that they used against protesters in February but on an even more intensive scale,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

and call for an end to US and European arms shipments to Bahrain:

Amnesty International has identified some of the ammunition found in the aftermath of the raid on Pearl Roundabout on 17 February.

They include US-made tear gas canisters, US-made 37mm rubber multi-baton rounds, French-made tear gas grenades, and French-made rubber “dispersion” grenades, which fragment into 18 pieces and produce a loud sound effect.

Amnesty International called on governments who supply weapons to Bahrain to immediately suspend the transfer of weapons, munitions and related equipment that could be used to commit further human rights violations, and to urgently review all arms supplies and training support to Bahrain’s military, security and police forces.

Such action from Washington is very unlikely when the US will not even actively condemn the armed siege of a hospital by its frequently visited allies.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com