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Middle East
Bahrain police 'target Shia processions'
Tear gas and rubber bullets reportedly used to break up religious gatherings in villages across the country.
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2011 11:27

Bahraini police have clashed with Shia marchers at religious processions in villages across the country, the country's opposition al-Wefaq movement and residents say.

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades and birdshot to break up Sunday's marches, which were taking place in several Shia villages around Manama, the country's capital, the witnesses said.

Residents said some gatherings were purely religious, while at others marchers shouted slogans against the ruling al-Khalifa family, including "The people want the fall of the regime", a chant that has become the symbol of similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt which dethroned long-time rulers.

In Sitra, residents said several people were injured and that a house was set on fire.

"We condemn this attack, this kind of attack will make the situation even worse," said Sayyed Hady of al-Wefaq.


This map, compiled by Bahraini blogger Fahad Desmukh, shows the sites of reported clashes between
security forces and Shia mourners on June 5.
View the full map here.

"This event is so, so normal in Bahrain, we've been doing it for centuries ... the authorities said they won't attack religious events, but this is what they did."

A government official denied that widespread clashes had taken place.

"There are no clashes really, there were some outlaws who caused some problems but these were small incidents that were quickly stopped. The situation is stable and back to normal," he told Reuters.

Journalists have been unable to verify the reports, as police have set up checkpoints sealing many Shia-majority areas. From outside those areas, the Reuters news agency reported that its reporters heard shouting and smelled tear gas.

The Shia villagers, some beating their chests and chanting religious verses, were marching to commemorate the festival of one of their 12 Imams.

Medics charged

On Monday, scores of Bahraini doctors and nurses were charged with attempting to topple the kingdom's monarchy.

The 47 accused have been in detention since March, after treating injured during anti-government protests.

The 23 doctors and 24 nurses were formally charged on Monday during a closed door hearing in a special security court.

Though the emergency law was lifted last week, Bahraini authorities have warned opposition activists of "consequences" in case of any further challenges to the government.

The developments come just days after the country's Formula One Grand Prix was reinstated. The race had been postponed from its original March date due to widespread protests at the time.

As that decision was announced, security forces were engaged in a fresh crackdown, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at activists gathered in Manama for the funeral of a protester they said had been killed by tear gas inhalation.

In March, Bahrain's Sunni rulers asked for military support from its Gulf Arab neighbours to suppress the protests, which have in particular called for democratic reforms and more rights for the country's Shia-majority citizens.

Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth fleet, and as such is a key ally for that country in the region. Saudi and Emirati forces appear to be set to remain the country indefinitely in order to ensure that the protesters do not achieve their goals.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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