February 18, 2011 / 9:34 AM / 9 years ago

Bahrain police attack a "massacre": Shi'ite cleric

DIRAZ, Bahrain (Reuters) - Bahrain’s senior Shi’ite cleric said on Friday a police attack on protesters which killed four people was a “massacre” and the government has shut the door to dialogue.

Sheikh Issa Qassem, seen as the most revered Shi’ite cleric in Bahrain, spoke at a mosque in a Shi’ite village on the northwestern edge of Bahrain, where thousands gathered for the Friday prayer.

He was interrupted during his sermon by people chanting: “The people want the fall of the regime.”

The powerful cleric wields considerable influence amongst the Gulf Arab state’s Shi’ite majority, making him a key figure in the country’s turmoil. Analysts say that he rarely ventures into day-to-day politics and if so only makes cautious remarks.

Jawad Fairooz, a member of parliament for main Shi’ite bloc Wefaq, told Reuters Sheikh Issa had also urged people to press for their rights.

“He said you should insist on your demands,” Fairooz said, adding he interpreted that as an endorsement of street protests: “It is clear that they should not be silent and should be in the streets.”

Four protesters were killed on Thursday when riot police drove activists from a makeshift camp in Pearl Square in the capital. More than 230 were wounded and dozens were detained.

Several thousand Shi’ites turned out in Bahrain on Friday to bury three of those killed in a crackdown ordered by the island state’s Sunni ruling family to quell opposition protests inspired by Egypt.

Writing by Amran Abocar; Editing by David Stamp

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