Reuters International

DUBAI (Reuters) - Seventeen detainees escaped from a prison in Bahrain, police said on Saturday, and the government warned citizens against giving them shelter.

The official Bahrain News Agency said 11 of those who escaped on Friday had since been recaptured, and six remained at large. Five others who aided in the planning and execution of the escape had also been arrested, it quoted police as saying.

The news agency said Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, chairing a security meeting to review the circumstances of the escape from the Dry Dock Detention Center, warned Bahrainis against harbouring the fugitives.

The news agency did not say whether the escapees were prisoners jailed for anti-government demonstrations or attacks, or inmates convicted of ordinary crimes.

Thousands of mainly Shi'ite Muslim Bahrainis are in jail on charges ranging from participating in anti-government protests to armed attacks on security forces in the Western-allied Gulf kingdom, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based.

Social media users posted at least one photo of a road where traffic was backed up for miles, and said it was caused by police closing roads to search for the prisoners on the run.

Bahrain was rocked in 2011 by Arab Spring-style mass protests staged mainly by the Shi'ite community demanding political and economic reforms, including a bigger share in running the country.

The government, with backing from Saudi Arabia, put down the protests by force, but demonstrators continue to erupt from time to time, often drawing swift response from police.

Bahrain accuses Iran of fomenting unrest and backing militants who have been increasingly attacking security forces using improvised bombs. Iran denies supporting militants.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi, William Maclean, Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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