Security forces began an assault on a central square of the capital Wednesday morning, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to push out an encampment of peaceful pro-democracy protesters a day after a state of emergency was declared. At least five people have been martyred after hundreds of Bahraini government forces attacked a protest camp in the capital Manama, where anti-regime demonstrations are continuing unabated.
Bahraini police killed five protesters and wounded dozens more Wednesday as they launched an assault on a group of protesters who had camped out the night before in Manama’s Pearl Square, an opposition lawmaker said.
â€œThere are a lot of injuries for sure,â€ said Jassim Hussein, a member of Al-Wefaq, the largest opposition political society. â€œThis is a Black day in Bahrain history.â€ The forces backed by the army helicopters could take over the square only moments later. A group of armed men had earlier set fire to the tents of the protesters. Electricity and mobile phone are reportedly cut off to people in large parts of Manama as the political situation in Bahrain escalates further.
The attacks come two days after Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar dispatched their armed forces to crisis-hit Bahrain to quash anti-government protests in the tiny Persian Gulf state.
Bahrainâ€™s king declared a state of emergency Tuesday, imposing a curfew, banning rallies and handing broad powers to a military bolstered by the fresh arrival of dozens of tanks sent by other Persian Gulf monarchies.
The armor added to an intervention that began Monday with the dispatch of more than 1,000 Saudi-wahabi Â troops, reinforcing a new hard line adopted by Bahrainâ€™s ruling family in a bid to quash a month-long protest that continued Tuesday, with human rights advocates reporting hundreds injured.
â€ Protesters have occupied Pearl Square in central Manama for more than three weeks, and their new grip on the downtown area has expanded in recent days to include checkpoints and barriers that have brought the countryâ€™s economy to a near halt.
Wahabi-Salfi state of Saudi Arabia, which like Bahrain has a Salfi monarchy, has feared that Bahrainâ€™s mostly Shiite protesters could fall in thrall to Iran were they to gain power, and it has vowed to do anything it takes to support Bahrainâ€™s al-Khalifa royal family.
There were signs of fresh tension between Iran and its neighbors over the Saudi intervention. A spokesman for Iranâ€™s foreign ministry said Tuesday that â€œthe presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrainâ€™s internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue.â€ Bahrain recalled its ambassador from Tehran.
At least two people martyred in clashes around Bahrain on Tuesday, according to the state-run television station and human rights advocates.
Witnesses watching the causeway between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said that about 100 army trucks and dozens of tanks on transport vehicles arrived Tuesday, along with more armored personnel carriers, supplementing the more than 1,000 Saudi troops and 500 police officers from the United Arab Emirates who arrived Monday. Bahrainâ€™s own defense force includes only about 9,000 personnel. It was not immediately clear which Gulf countries the new military forces had come from.
Protesters vowed to hold their ground, and a member of the main opposition political group said that chances of negotiation were slim as long as foreign troops were in the country.
â€œThereâ€™s no talk about dialogue,â€ said Hussein of Al-Wefaq. â€œThe topics have changed in the last 24 hours.â€
Still, Hussein said, violence would not solve the issues and â€œeventually thereâ€™s no choiceâ€ but for negotiations.
He said that he was not aware of any contact between the opposition groups and the government since the troops arrived Monday.
American Conspiracy to eliminate Uprising
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had told Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal in a conversation Tuesday that all sides â€œmust take steps now to negotiate toward a political resolution.â€ While the United States recognized that Bahrain has â€œthe right to ask for assistance,â€ Clinton said in a news conference in Cairo, â€œsecurity challenges cannot be a substitute for a political resolution.â€
Supporting the Saudi-Wahabis and Gulf Countires Armies invasion in Bahrain she said that â€œIâ€™m not going to characterize their actions,â€ . But â€œas long they are moving inâ€ to Bahrain, she said, â€œthey, along with everyone else, need to be promoting the dialogue between the two parties.â€
The worst clashes of the day took place in Sitra, a mostly Shiite island south of Manama, where protesters fought with riot police and government supporters, witnesses said.
â€œRiot police started to attack Sitra, and civilians, too,â€ were on the attack, said Mohammed Al-Maskati, the president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. â€œThe police were using rubber bullets, tear gas, sound bombs and shotguns,â€ although, he said, he was not certain if any live ammunition was used.