Tuesday, March 15, 2011
King of Bahrain declares state of emergency, Saudi forces entered country
UPDATE: King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain on Tuesday ordered a state of emergency in the kingdom for a period of three months. Earlier there were reports of helicopters firing live ammunition on protesters.
About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain to protect government facilities, a Saudi official source said, a day after mainly Shi'ite protesters overran police and blocked roads. ´They are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force that would guard the government installations,´the source said. The arrival of the troops follows a request to members of the Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC) from Bahrain, where the rulers have faced weeks of protests and growing pressure from a majority Shia population to introduce political reforms. The United Arab Emirates has also sent about 500 police to Bahrain, according to Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the foreign minister of the UAE.
Witnesses saw some 150 light armored troop carriers, ambulances, water tankers and jeeps cross into Bahrain via the 25-km (16-mile) causeway and head toward Riffa, a Sunni area that is home to the royal family and military hospital.
Opposition groups, including Wefaq, the country's largest Shia movement, have spoken out against the use of foreign troops.´We consider the entry of any soldier or military machinery into the Kingdom of Bahrain's air, sea or land territories a blatant occupation,´ Wefaq said in a statement.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Bahrain, Matar Ebrahim Matar, an opposition MP, said: "These are not security forces, they are military forces. There is a big difference between the two.
Nabeel Rajab, from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera that the Saudi troops would be opposed by the protesters.´This is an internal issue and we will consider it as an occupation," he said. "This step is not welcomed by Bahrainis. This move is not acceptable at all. It is a repressive regime supported by another repressive regime. The political parties are supporting the dialogue, and they are waiting for initiatives from Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.But the government has not provided any proposal. Until now all the terms set by the royal family are vague.´ Salman offered assurances on Sunday that dialogue would address key opposition demands, including giving parliament more power and reforming government and electoral districts.
The arrival of the Saudi forces came after mostly Shi'ite demonstrators overwhelmed Bahraini police on Sunday and blocked the highway to the main financial district in the most violent confrontations since troops killed seven protesters last month.
Those barricades were still up on Monday, with protesters checking cars at the entrance to the Pearl roundabout, the focal point of weeks of protests. On the other side of the same highway, police set up a roadblock preventing any cars moving from the airport toward the financial area.Neighbouirng Iran warned against ´foreign interferences´.The peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain are among the domestic issues of this country, and creating an atmosphere of fear and using other countries' military forces to oppress these demands is not the solution,´ Hossein Amir Abdollahian, an official from the Iranian foreign ministry, was reported by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency as saying.