Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Bahraini troops clear protest camp after declaration of state of emergency
Updated. - Security forces in Bahrain have driven out pro-democracy demonstrators camped out at the Pearl Roundabout in the capital, Manama. Troops backed by tanks stormed the protest site early on Wednesday and helicopters hovered overhead. Later in the day six opposition leaders were arrested.
At least six persons were killed in the offensive atPearl Square. Three protesters and three policemen. Protesters threw rocks and petrol bombs at police who were clearing the protest camp and killed three by running them over with their cars at high speed, witnesses and medical sources said. Many explosions were heard and smoke was seen over central Manama. Tear gas was fired and the protesters retreated from the roundabout. On Tuesday at last two people were killed in clashes in the Shia suburb of Sitra outside Manama.
Among the oppostion figures detained overnight were Haq leader Hassan Mushaima and Wafa leader Abdel Wahhab Hussein, who had led calls for the overthrow of the royal family, the largest opposition party Wefaq said.More moderate Wefaq had limited its demands to wide-ranging political and constitutional reform. Also arrested was Ibrahim Sharif, head of the secular leftist party Waad.
The moves by the security forces came a day after king Hamad declared a state of emergency for the next three months. The king authorised the commander of Bahrain's defence forces 'to take all necessary measures to protect the safety of the country and its citizens,' a statement read out on television said.
Reuters filmed the following reactions to the declaration of the state of emergency:
There are roughly 560,000 citizen residents of Bahrain, about two thirds of them - 370,000 people - are Shiite Muslims. The king and the circles around him are Sunni and thus a minority. There are also 300,000 Indian expatriates, along with other guest workers who bring the total population to 1.2 million.
The reason that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sent troops to Bahrain (1000 Saudi's, plus some 500 from the UAE) is probabbly that Saudi Arabia, which dominates the GCC is very concerned that its own Shiite population (of about 12%) in the oil-rich Eastern Province, might be encouraged by the Bahraini protests to follow the example and also demand more rights.
The US, which counts both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia among its allies, has called for restraint, but has refrained from saying whether it supports the move to deploy troops.
Bahrainis must "take steps now" towards a political resolution of the crisis. Iran, meanwhile, called the interference by Saudi troops unacceptable.