Bahrain witnesses: Activist hurt by gas canister

Bahraini police wounded a prominent human rights activist by shooting her in the leg with a tear gas canister, witnesses said Thursday.

Yousef al-Muhafedha, a member of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said he saw police use a gun to fire the canister at Zainab al-Khawaja at close range after anti-government protesters gathered in the village of Buri southwest of the capital of Manama a day earlier.

Police appeared to recognize al-Khawaja, he added.

The injury did not appear life-threatening. Associated Press photos taken shortly after the shooting showed her limping with blood trickling down her right leg.

Al-Khawaja is the daughter of jailed activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, whose hunger strike of more than 100 days brought renewed international attention to the protest movement in Bahrain. She couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The government Information Affairs Authority said police had not received al-Khawaja's claim of injury, but that all such cases are taken seriously.

"If citizens have been harmed due to misconduct or negligence, they are requested to immediately file a complaint so that it can be investigated as soon as possible," the authority said in an emailed response to questions.

It added that "precaution should always be exercised" by Bahrainis taking part in unauthorized demonstrations.

Clashes between police and protesters happen nearly every day.

As night fell Thursday, witnesses said police fired tear gas in an effort to disperse protesters in Aali and other predominantly Shiite villages south and west of Manama.

Bahraini police said they were searching for three suspects after they discovered what were described as large amounts of highly explosive bomb-making materials during a raid two weeks ago.

Maj. Gen. Tariq al-Hassan, chief of public security, said in a statement the aim was to build bombs "designed to cause severe injury, a high death toll, serious destruction to property and fear in the minds of the public."

A travel ban was lifted for another well-known rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, after he was fined 300 dinars ($800) Thursday related to a critical Twitter post he made against the Ministry of Interior, lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer said.

Rajab was released from jail Wednesday after being detained on charges related to separate comments he made on social media. He still has a number of cases pending against him.

Bahrain's majority Shiites, emboldened by Arab Spring protests elsewhere, launched an uprising more than 16 months ago seeking to limit the wide-ranging powers of the ruling Sunni dynasty. At least 50 people have been killed in the unrest in the strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

Bahrain's monarchy has made concessions, but not enough to satisfy demands of the protesters.


Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed reporting.