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Rights Group Slams Bahrain for 'Systematic' Attacks on Medical Personnel

Mourners chant anti-government slogans as they carry the body of Ali Isa Saqer, 31, to be washed for burial in his village of Sehla, Bahrain, April 10, 2011, after he died in police custody in the past week

A U.S.-based rights group says Bahraini authorities have carried out "systematic" attacks on medical professionals who treated injured anti-government protesters during months of civil unrest in the country.

Physicians for Human Rights released a report Friday, saying it has "forensic evidence of attacks on physicians, medical staff, patients and unarmed civilians." The report describes the use of weapons, beatings and tear gas.

The group's Washington director Hans Hogrefe says the excessive use of force the group documented is "extremely troubling," calling it "cause for an immediate international investigation."

Physicians for Human Rights released a list of more than 30 health care professionals it says have been detained or gone missing during the government crackdown on demonstrations.

The protests in Bahrain have been led by the country's Shi'ite majority, which has been demanding a greater stake in the country's Sunni-led government.

Bahraini officials have said 24 people have been killed in the demonstrations, which began on February 14.

Earlier this month, humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders called Bahrain's hospitals "places to be feared" and said health facilities were being used as "bait" to identify and arrest protesters seeking treatment.

Bahrain's official news agency quoted a government spokesman as saying the allegations by Doctors Without Borders seem to be part of an "ongoing, orchestrated" campaign by the opposition protest movement.

The military took over the Salmaniya medical complex in the capital Manama last month.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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