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Shia cleric declares jihad on Bahrain government

Murtaza Sindi said a new phase of armed resistance against the royal family have begun.

Threats from a Bahraini Shia opposition group of beginning an armed struggle against the authorities to seek "martyrdom" has led the Bahraini government to suspend an online news site linked to one of the main Shia factions.

The tiny oil-rich monarchy blocked access to the Al-Wasat news website until further notice, following the publication of an inflammatory video by a Shia cleric, Murtaza Sindi, who said that a new phase of armed resistance against the "Al Khalifa tribe", in reference to the royal family, had begun.

According to state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA), the authorities had accused the opposition-linked website on Monday of publishing materials that threatened "national unity".

Al-Wasat has marketed itself as Bahrain's only independent daily, and is strongly associated with the Shia-led opposition which has been facing a government crackdown since a violent revolution was aborted by a Saudi-led intervention.

It is the second time the newspaper has been closed since last August.

"The newspaper has repeatedly published and broadcast material that causes a rift in society and [promotes] a spirit of division that harms national unity and public order," Bahrain's information ministry said in a statement carried by BNA.

A newspaper employee confirmed that the online edition, including online services, had been suspended but said the print edition had been allowed to continue. Access to the website remained unrestricted from outside the Gulf monarchy.

This comes after Bahraini Shia leader Murtaza Sindi, who is well-known for inciting against the Bahraini authorities, announced the beginning of an armed campaign to overthrow the current government.

Sindi said that his organisation, the Shia Islamist Al-Wafa party, would either seek "justice" in Bahrain, or else "martyrdom" fighting in support of their cause.

Earlier this week, Bahrain executed three Shia men convicted of having killed three police officers in a 2014 bomb attack, leading to protests.

The United States expressed concern on Tuesday about the executions, whilst simultaneously describing the killing of police officers as "reprehensible…and [deserving of] condemnation."

State Department spokesman John Kirby said: "We're concerned that these executions occurred at a time of elevated tension in Bahrain…We continue to call on…Bahrain to return urgently to the path of reconciliation."

"This, we believe, is the best way to marginalise those who support violence and bring greater security and stability to the region."

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