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Iran sends flotilla to Bahrain in show of solidarity

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 120 Iranians are on board two ships bound for Bahrain
  • Members of Bahrain's Shiite Muslim majority have been staging protests
  • They say the country's Sunni royal family has not addressed their concerns

(CNN) -- Iran sent a "flotilla of solidarity" to Bahrain on Tuesday in a show of support for the majority-Shiite population, the semi-official Far News Agency reported.

The two-ship flotilla left the Iranian port city of Bushehr for Bahrain carrying 120 Iranians, Fars reported, citing Ali Bahrani, the governor of Bushehr.

The ship's passengers were a mix of people including students, teachers and clergymen, Bahrani told Fars.

Beginning in February, young members of Bahrain's Shiite Muslim majority staged protests to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption -- issues they say the country's rulers have done little to address.

Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy anchors its Fifth Fleet, is governed by a Sunni royal family.

It called in forces from Saudi Arabia and other regional troops to help end the protests, which swept across the kingdom earlier this year as populations across the Arab world rose up against their rulers.

Bahrain's monarchy has long suspected Iran of attempting to foment unrest among the island's majority-Shiite population, leaked U.S. diplomatic documents show. In a report last month to the United Nations, Bahrain said the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah has been training opposition figures at its camps in Lebanon and Iran in an effort to destabilize the country's ruling family.

Both Iran and Hezbollah have denied involvement.

It was not clear whether the Iranian flotilla would be allowed to enter Bahraini waters.