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Young Bahraini dies after being shot outside Shi'ite leader's house: activists

DUBAI (Reuters) - A young Bahraini man died in hospital on Friday, nearly two months after he was shot in the head by gunmen in civilian clothes outside the home of the country's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric, activists and a local newspaper said.

Tensions have been high in Western-allied Bahrain since last year over a government crackdown on the opposition that had included the banning of a main Shi'ite Muslim group, plans to ban another secular society and the trial of the spiritual leader of the kingdom's Shi'ite Muslim community.

Mustafa Hamdan, 18, had been in a comma since a Jan. 26 raid on the home of Ayatollah Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain's Shi'ite community, in the village of Duraz, near Manama.

The British-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said security forces wearing masks and civilian clothes opened fire in the dawn raid on a crowd, which including Hamdan, that had gathered outside Qassim's house. Several other people were wounded as a result.

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Hamdan had been on life support since then, BIRD said, describing his death as "an extrajudicial killing by the Bahraini government".

Bahraini authorities made no comment on the incident and official did not respond to a request by Reuters for a comment.

Hamdan's family has confirmed his death, according to the Arabic-language al-Wasat newspaper.

Qassim, who is in his mid-70s, has been holed up at his home since authorities announced he had been stripped of his citizenship, accusing him of trying to divide Bahraini society, encourage youths to violate the constitution and promote a sectarian environment in the country.

He is also on trial on charges of illegally collecting funds and money laundering a religious tax known as Khums.

The kingdom had been convulsed by occasional protests in the island state, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, since authorities crushed 2011 protests by mainly Shi'ites demanding a bigger share in running the country, which is dominated by its Sunni King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Vin Shahrestani)

 
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