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Bahrain's Sunni rulers target Shiite mosques

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Nothing, however, has struck harder at the fabric of this nation, where Shiites outnumber Sunnis nearly 4 to 1, than the destruction of Shiite worship centers.

The Obama administration has said nothing in public about the destruction. Bahrain – and its patron, Saudi Arabia – are longtime U.S. allies, and Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

27 religious structures destroyed

Members of the Shiite opposition assembled a list of 27 mosques and other religious structures demolished or damaged in the crackdown. A tour by McClatchy of several townships suggests the number of buildings destroyed is far greater.

The demolitions are carried out daily, Shiite leaders say, with work crews often arriving in the dead of night, accompanied by police and military escorts. In many cases, the workers have hauled away the rubble, leaving no trace, before townspeople awake.

Bahrain's minister of justice and Islamic affairs, Sheikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdulla al Khalifa, defended the demolitions in an interview, claiming that any mosque demolished had been built illegally, recently, and without permission.

"These are not mosques. These are illegal buildings," he said.

That claim, however, is easily challenged. In Aali, for example, the government rerouted a planned highway some years back so as to preserve the Amir Mohammed Braighi mosque, residents say.

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