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Home of a Bahraini activist is attacked, again, rights group says

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The home of Nabeel Rajab is tear gassed
  • The attack follows a similar one in April
  • Rajab is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights

(CNN) -- The home of prominent Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab was attacked Saturday, the rights group he heads said.

The attack took place early Saturday morning while Rajab and his family were sleeping, said the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Assailants launched teargas grenades into the house, breaking the window of Rajab's brother, the group said.

"We had very frightening moments rescuing my brother, his wife and his daughter as they were close to serious suffocation. This is an attempt to murder a member of my family to pressure me to stop my human rights activities," said Rajab, president of the Center.

"Thank God the teargas bombs fell on the tile and not the carpet, which could have caused a fire and could have killed the whole family while they were asleep," he said. "Please do whatever you can to stop the government from attacking me and my family who have nothing to do with my human rights work."

Saturday marked the second attack on Rajab's home in about a month. In April, assailants lobbed teargas over a high wall surrounding his and his mother's houses, Human Rights Watch reported. After that attack, the New York-based rights group called on the government of Bahrain to investigate, saying the attack appeared to target Rajab for his advocacy work.

Human Rights Watch said then that it knew of no entity other than Bahrain's security forces that would have access to the kind of grenades used in the April attack.

There was no immediate response to the Human Right Watch statement by the Bahraini government.

The country is ruled by the Al-Khalifa family, which has been in power since the 18th century. Many protesters are calling for the removal of the royal family, whom they blame for the country's high unemployment rate and for running a corrupt government that relies on torture and other harsh measures to clamp down on dissent.

On March 20, about 25 people in about a dozen cars pulled up to Rajab's house and took him to the offices of the Interior Ministry's investigative department. There, according to Rajab, he was beaten, blindfolded and interrogated about an armed suspect they believed he knew.

The government confirmed the arrest but provided no other details.

Rajab is one of hundreds of Bahrainis to be detained by security forces in recent months. The arrests, according to human rights activists, have often been violent and have taken place at night.

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