Bahraini police have arrested four US citizens, including one the Gulf Kingdom accuses of taking part in protests on Sunday, a senior police official said, although local media described them as journalists covering a protest.
One of the people detained has been identified as Anna Day, an American independent journalist who was in Bahrain along with her three colleagues.
"Anna and her crew are committed journalists who only want to ensure they could undertake their profession ethically and thoroughly," said a spokesperson for Day's family in a statement on Monday afternoon. "The allegation that they were in any way involved in illegal behavior or anything other than journalistic activities is impossible. Anna Day is much loved and missed and we are concerned about her well being as well as that of her three American colleagues. We hope the Bahraini authorities will release all four journalists as soon as possible so they can return home."
Day has reported from across the Middle East and North Africa, including most recently making a documentary in Egypt and Gaza. The names of the other three detained individuals have not yet been made public.
The other three Americans were detained at a checkpoint outside of the capital, Manama, the director of police said in a statement describing the alleged rioters as vandals. He added that the four had entered the country as tourists on February 11 and 12 but some of them "carried out media activity without a licence from the concerned authorities, in addition to committing acts that violate the law."
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But the Arabic-language news outlet Mira'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Mirror) reported that four American journalists had been detained in Sitra, a Shiite village east of Manama, on Sunday while covering clashes between local demonstrators and security forces. RT news agency posted video of some of the clashes:
Miraat al-Bahrain published photos of a masked person it said was a journalist for the Huffington Post website who was running with his or his hands in the air while being chased by two policemen. It said the photos had been published by activists on social media.
The demonstrations over the weekend marked the fifth anniversary of massive protests in 2011 mainly by Shiite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger share in the government. Those protests were violently crushed by Bahrain's security forces, aided by reinforcements sent from its Gulf Arab allies, including Saudi Arabia. Many anti-government activists were detained and subjected to harsh conditions in Bahrain's notorious prisons. The tiny island kingdom, where the US Fifth Fleet is based, has continued to suffer from bouts of unrest, especially in villages where Shi'ites are a majority.
The US State Department said it was aware of reports that US citizens had been arrested, but declined further comment, citing privacy considerations.