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Bahrain Clears Protesters by Force
March 16, 2011

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One day after declaring martial law, the government in Bahrain brought out the heavy artillery, sending tanks and helicopters to remove protesters from the streets of Manama, the capital city. A camp near Pearl Square that had been home to the protest movement was soon deserted, with six people dead — three police and three protesters. Dozens of injured were taken to Manama's main hospital.

A planned protest was called off in the wake of the three-month state of emergency, which also imposed a curfew from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. The results included deserted streets, closed shops, and long lines at cash machines (some of which were not working).

Rhetoric from the United States, a key ally of Bahrain and Saudia Arabia, ratcheted up, with President Barack Obama adding a personal call for restraint to similar statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Feltman. All three were responding to the recent arrival in Manama of more than 1,000 troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

All of those nations have governments run by Sunni Muslims. The protests in Bahrain, which began as more of an expression of solidarity to the anti-authoritarian efforts in Egypt and Tunisia and a call for a constitutional monarchy, had morphed into more of a religious conflict, pitting the country's majority Shiite Muslims against the minority Sunni-led dynastic government.

Agreeing with the U.S. that the crackdown was too intense was Iranian President Mahmoud Admadinejad, who issued a statement to that effect on behalf of his Shiite-run government.

The sectarian element of the clashes was starting to be felt in surrounding areas as well. The prime minister of Iraq, a Shiite, joined Admadinejad in condemning the violent crackdown, as did supporters of Lebanon's Shiite military and sometimes-political group Hezbollah.



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