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Bahrain jail break: Gunmen, inmates on the run after attack

Country volatile since Sunni authorities crushed 2011 Shia-led protests demanding constitutional monarchy, elected prime minister
Bahraini Shia demonstration after Islamic State group suicide bomber attacked mosque in 2015 (AFP/file photo)

Armed men on Sunday attacked a prison in Bahrain where Shias convicted over anti-government protests are held, killing one policeman and allowing 10 inmates to escape, the interior ministry said.

The security forces launched a manhunt for the attackers and the escapees, the ministry said on Twitter.

The attack took place at Jau prison south of the capital Manama.

The ministry said four or five members of a "terrorist group" armed with automatic rifles and pistols attacked at 05:30 local time (0230 GMT).

It said one policeman was killed and another wounded in the attack, which allowed 10 prisoners to flee.

Seven had been serving life sentences and three were serving lengthy jail terms for "terrorist acts," the ministry added.

A Bahraini court last January sentenced 57 men to 15-year jail terms for taking part in a 2015 riot inside Jau prison, which is located outside the capital Manama.

Bahraini security forces tear-gassed and beat inmates at the prison while trying to quell clashes that erupted during family visits, local human rights group Bahrain Youth Society for Human rights said at the time.

The tiny but strategic Gulf state has been rocked by unrest since its Sunni authorities crushed Shia-led protests in 2011 demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Hundreds of Shias have been arrested and many have faced trials over their role in the demonstrations.

Police on Sunday set up or reinforced roadblocks near Shia villages outside the capital, witnesses said.

Despite the crackdown, Shia protesters have frequently clashed with security forces in these villages.

In June, 17 prisoners broke out of al-Hadd jail east of Manama, but the authorities recaptured 11 of them the next day.

Bahrain, which is connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway, lies across the Gulf from Shia Iran and is home to the US Fifth Fleet.

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