Bahraini authorities detained groups of protesters for closing several streets nationwide and using metal rods and Molotov cocktails in confrontations with police, the state-run Bahrain News Agency said today.
Those arrested will be prosecuted, BNA quoted Chief of Public Security Major-General Tariq al-Hassan as saying. At least 41 members of the security forces were injured in yesterday’s clashes, the Information Affairs Authority said in an e-mailed statement today. It said attackers hurled metal rods, rocks, bottles and petrol bombs directly at the riot police.
“The nature of the attacks reflected a serious escalation in the violent tactics of groups and individuals supporting the political opposition,” the authority said.
Tensions in the island nation persist almost a year after the resurgence of protests led by members of the Shiite Muslim majority demanding a more representative government and greater rights from the country’s Sunni Muslim rulers. Thirty-five people died between Feb. 14 and April 15, according to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the unrest. Neighboring Saudi Arabia, also a Sunni monarchy, sent troops to Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, to help restore order.
Protesters took to the streets in several villages yesterday in response to calls by opposition groups for unauthorized rallies, dubbed the Bahrain Fist. Recent rallies have turned violent, with demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails and police using tear gas and rubber bullets.
The U.S. State Department has said that embassy employees who live near an area that has seen an increase in demonstrations are being relocated to other neighborhoods. The U.S. Navy is aware of the travel advisory issued by the embassy and is examining options for personnel living in that area if needed, Jennifer Stride, a public affairs officer, said in response to an e-mailed question.
“We continue to monitor the situation and advise our personnel to avoid areas where protests occur,” she said.
Al-Hassan said yesterday that a request by opposition groups to hold a protest today in a busy commercial area of the capital, Manama, had been turned down. Several unauthorized rallies have been held there recently, resulting in traffic jams and increased police presence. Al-Wefaq, the largest Shiite group, said in a statement yesterday the opposition would go ahead with the rally anyway.
About 200 opposition supporters assembled in Manama today, Hadi al-Mousawi, a senior al-Wefaq member, said in a telephone interview. “But they couldn’t go ahead with the protest because security forces closed the roads and used teargas to disperse the crowds,” he said.
A helicopter circled over the capital and its suburbs in the afternoon. Traffic on a highway leading to Manama and the nearby Diplomatic Area, where the Central Bank and other government institutions are located, slowed to a crawl because of road closures.
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