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Bahrain prison-breakers captured after boat escape bid

Police claim 'several' men sprung from Jau prison in January were recaptured as they tried to sail to Iran
Bahrain has been rocked by ongoing protests against the ruling family (AFP)

Bahraini forces recaptured several prisoners sprung from jail in a January prison break as they attempted to flee by boat on Thursday, the interior ministry said.

On New Year's Day, four gunmen stormed the notorious Jau prison, south of the capital Manama, killing a policeman and freeing 10 inmates convicted of terrorism offences.

"Security forces foiled at dawn today an attempt to smuggle terrorist fugitives and the Jau prison escapees," the ministry said.

It said the fugitives had intended to board "a boat that was headed to Iran".

Bahrain has been wracked by unrest, which has pitted its Shia-majority population against its Sunni Muslim rulers.

A 2011 uprising seeking a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister was crushed with deadly force.

The Shia opposition has since been banned and many of its leaders given long jail terms, several of them on "terrorism" charges.

Seven of the prisoners who escaped from Jau last month were serving life sentences.

The government's crackdown on the opposition has drawn criticism from its chief ally the United States, which has its Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain just across the Gulf from Iran.

Bahraini authorities have repeatedly accused Shiite Iran of fanning the unrest in the kingdom. Tehran says it is merely speaking out in defence of the rights of its coreligionists.

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