Bahrain's largest Shi'ite opposition party says the Gulf state's minority Sunni rulers are intensifying arrests of opposition activists, with more than 300 detained as part of a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.
The party, Wefaq, said Thursday Bahraini authorities have detained 304 people, including 11 women, since the crackdown began on March 16, when security forces evicted the protesters from Manama's Pearl Square. The party says 24 activists remain missing.
One of the most prominent activists to be arrested is blogger Mahmoud al-Youssef, a vocal critic of the Bahraini government's limits on freedom of expression. Family members and human rights experts say Bahraini authorities took him into custody Wednesday.
Wefaq also accused a police patrol of opening fire on a group of teenagers and killing a 15-year-old boy in the Shi'ite village of Sar on Wednesday.
There was no independent confirmation of the circumstances of the shooting.
Earlier, Bahrain's interior ministry reported that 24 people have been killed in more than a month of anti-government protests in the majority Shi'ite state.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheik Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa has accused Lebanese the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah of training Bahraini opposition activists to engage in violent protests against the ruling al-Khalifa family. He made the allegation in an interview published this week in the Al-Hayat newspaper.
Hezbollah issued a statement Thursday denying that any of its members are present in Bahrain.
The Iran-backed group says it has been providing only moral support to the opposition, which has been demanding the Sunni-led government's resignation and its replacement with a new system that gives a greater voice to Shi'ites.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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