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Middle East
Deaths heighten Bahrain tension
Offering apology, King Hamad vows to investigate incidents but opposition group suspends parliamentary participation.
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 20:43
Al Jazeera's correspondent in Manama reports on the ongoing unrest in the Bahraini capital

At least one person has been killed and several others injured after riot police in Bahrain opened fire at protesters holding a funeral service for a man killed during protests in the kingdom a day earlier.

The victim, Fadhel Ali Almatrook, was hit with bird-shotgun in the capital, Manama, on Tuesday morning, Maryam Alkhawaja, head of foreign relations at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.

"This morning the protesters were walking from the hospital to the cemetery and they got attacked by the riot police," Alkhawaja said.

"Thousands of people are marching in the streets, demanding the removal of the regime - police fired tear gas and bird shot, using excessive force - that is why people got hurt."

Police reportedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the funeral procession [Mahmood Nasser Al-Yousif]

At least 25 people were reported to have been treated for injuries in hospital.

An Al Jazeera correspondent in Bahrain, who cannot be named for his own safety, said that police were taking a very heavy-handed approach towards the protesters.

"Police fired on the protesters this morning, but they showed very strong resistance," our correspondent said.

"It seems like the funeral procession was allowed to continue, but police are playing a cat-and-mouse game with the protesters."

The developments came as the king of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, made a rare television appearance in which he offered condolences on the protesters' deaths.

The process of change in the kingdom "will not stop", the official Bahrain News Agency quoted Sheikh Hamad as saying on Tuesday.

Opposition's move

Angered by the deaths, a Shia Muslim opposition group has announced it was suspending its participation in the parliament.

"This is the first step. We want to see dialogue," Ibrahim Mattar, a parliamentarian belonging to the al-Wefaq group, said. "In the coming days, we are either going to resign from the council or continue."

Al-Wefaq has a strong presence inside the parliament and within the country's Shia community.

Video from YouTube showing riot police firing on largely peaceful protesters during Monday's demonstration

Tuesday's violence came a day after demonstrators observed a Day of Rage, apparently inspired by the recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Shias, who are thought to be in the majority, have often alleged discrimination at the hands of the kingdom's Sunni rulers.

Thousands came out on the streets on Monday to protest, sparking clashes with riot police.

Khalid Al-Marzook, a Bahraini member of parliament, told Al Jazeera that one person had been killed and that three others were in critical condition in hospital following Monday's violence.

Bahrain's news agency said that the country's interior minister had ordered an investigation into Monday's death.

The interior ministry later issued a statement saying that "some of the people participating in the the funeral clashed with forces from a security patrol", leading to Almatrouk's death.

"An investigation is under way to determine the circumstances surrounding the case," it said.

Lieutenant-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa has also offered his condolences to the dead man's family.

Online reaction

Amira Al Hussaini, a Bahraini blogger who monitors citizen media for Global Voices Online, told Al Jazeera that there has been a huge outpouring of anger online in Bahrain.

"What we've seen yesterday and today, is a break from the normal routine - people like me, that are not necessarily in favour of the protests that are happening in Bahrain at this time, are now speaking out," she said.

"I am trying to remain objective but I can't - people are being shot at close range."

Hussaini said that people in Bahrain were very afraid.

"We are afraid of going out in the streets and demanding our rights. Tunisia and Egypt have given people in Arab countries hope - even if you believe that something is impossible."

"I personally have no respect for the police - they lie, they manipulate the story," she said.

"This is being pitted as a sectarian issue - the Shia wanting to overthrow the regime. But it is not a Shia uprising."

She said that people from all backgrounds and religions are behind the protests.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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