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Middle east

Police use teargas and rubber bullets in raid on protestors

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-02-17

Three people were killed Thursday in Bahrain's capital of Manama, after police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse protestors camped in Pearl Square. The overnight raid brings the death toll in Bahrain’s recent unrest to five.

 

REUTERS - Police in the Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain attacked demonstrators camped out in the capital on Thursday, killing three, in a move to stifle pro-democracy protests inspired by similar movements across the Middle East.
 
"They are killing us!" one man told Reuters as police firing teargas and buckshot moved on Pearl Square in Manama around 3 a.m. (0000 GMT), dispersing some 2,000 people, including women and children, who had spent 3 days there in emulation of the successful protest camp on Cairo's Tahrir Square.
 
France 24 speaks with Maryam Al Kawaya, Bahrain Human Rights Office
Having seen protests in Tunisia and Egypt gradually build momentum and topple veteran rulers there, Bahrain's Saudi-allied royal family, long aware of simmering discontent, seem to have decided to nip in the bud the latest challenge to their rule.
 
The overnight bloodshed in Bahrain came as Libyans were preparing to mount a "Day of Rage" against their entrenched authoritarian ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
 
There was little sign early on Thursday that a social media campaign to get Libyans onto the streets had had much of a response in the tightly controlled North African nation, where Gaddafi, like the now deposed presidents Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, has ruled for decades.
 
Recent days have also seen trouble on the streets of Yemen, Iraq and in non-Arab Iran.
 
Leaders from the Gulf in the east to the Atlantic in the West have been looking at a variety of measures to ease economic hardships that include rising food prices and unemployment among the young, as well as tightening security.
 
Sectarian element
 
An offshore neighbour and close ally of oil giant Saudi Arabia, Bahrain is also a banking hub and base for the U.S. navy. The sectarian aspect of violence in Bahrain, whose majority Shi'ite population is ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal house, could fuel discontent among the Shi'ite minority in Saudi Arabia itself.
 
"This is real terrorism," said Abdul Jalil Khalil, also from Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition party Wefaq. "Whoever took the decision to attack the protest was aiming to kill."
 
The demonstrations came after U.S. President Barack Obama commenting on the overthrow of Mubarak, said: "The world is changing ... If you are governing these countries, you've got to get ahead of the change, you can't be behind the curve".
 
Authoritarian governments have reason to fear. Young people can watch uprisings on satellite television or the web and can talk on social networks hard for secret police to control.
 
In Manama, capital of an island about the size of Singapore and attached to Saudi Arabia by a causeway, armoured vehicles patrolled after the overnight violence. Protesters, whose tone had hardened following the deaths of two demonstrators on Monday and Tuesday, said demands for constitutional reform would continue and that some may now want the king himself to go.
 
At Pearl Square, abandoned tents, blankets and rubbish dotted the area and the smell of teargas wafted through the air.
 
Helicopters clattered over the city and tow-trucks dragged away cars abandoned by protesters, their tyres squealing on the tarmac because the brakes were still on.
 
Bahrain's Interior Ministry said on Twitter that security forces had "cleared Pearl roundabout" of demonstrators.
 
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa introduced a new constitution giving Bahrainis more political rights a decade ago, but the opposition says he has not gone far enough to introduce democracy. Most of the cabinet are royal family members.
 
Gaddafi
 
Libya has been tightly controlled for more than 40 years by Gaddafi, an army officer who is now Africa's longest-serving leader, but the oil exporter has felt the ripples from the overthrow of veteran leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.
 
Though some Libyans complain about unemployment, inequality and limits on political freedoms, analysts say the government can use oil revenues to smooth over most problems.
 
Al Jazeera television, and posts on Facebook, said two people had been killed in protests in Al Bayda, east of Libya's second city of Benghazi. But they did not give the source of the information and it was not possible to verify the reports.
 
On Wednesday, witnesses and media reported that several hundred people clashed with police and Gaddafi supporters on Tuesday night in the city of Benghazi. State media also reported there were pro-Gaddafi protests too across the country.
 
Gaddafi says Libya does not need to import Western democracy because it is run on his system, the Third Universal Theory, in which citizens govern themselves with grassroots institutions.
 
Rights group Amnesty International voiced concern: "The Libyan authorities must allow peaceful protests, not try to stifle them with heavy-handed repression," it said.
 
In Iran, supporters and opponents of the hard line Islamic system clashed in Tehran on Wednesday during a funeral procession for a student shot in a rally two days earlier, state broadcaster IRIB reported. Monday's rally, in support of the people of Egypt and Tunisia, was biggest unrest since 2009.
 
In Iraq, three people were killed and dozens wounded in the southern city of Kut on Wednesday as protesters demanding better services fought with police and set buildings ablaze.

 

Date created : 2011-02-17

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