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Saudi Arabia Sends Troops to Support Bahrain
March 13, 2011

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The protests against authoritarian and religious government in Bahrain took an unexpected turn as Saudi Arabia announced that it was sending troops to guard Bahrain's government installations.

Nearly 1,000 soldiers from Sunni-run Saudi Arabia arrived in Manama, Bahrain's capital, to help quell a rising tide of unrest by Bahrain's Shiite minority. The Saudi government said the soldiers, who arrived with jeeps, armored troops carriers, and ambulances, were part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional defense force. The United Arab Emirates was also expected to lend support to the Bahrainian government.

Bahrain's opposition, however, termed the action a declaration of war. Most protesters in Bahrain have no weapons at all. Some do, however, and some clashes between police and protesters have turned violent, with several deaths reported. One particular violent clash near Pearl Square, in Manama, resulted in riot police firing tear gas to keep protesters at bay.

The protests in Bahrain began a few weeks ago, in the wake of the new government in Tunisia and the worldwide attention given to the protests in Egypt. Crown Prince Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa had announced that the government would move more toward a representative model, but those changes have been slow in coming.

Bahrain's protest, however, has a religious element to it, in that involves the traditional fundamental disagreement between the two main divisions of Islam. Bahrain's ruling dynasty and government are populated by Sunni Muslims, whereas the majority of Bahrainian citizens are Shiite Muslims. The same is true in Saudi Arabia, which has seen a small amount of protests against its authoritarian government as well in recent days.



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