Security forces attack Bahraini protesters

Bahraini troops attack anti-government protesters in villages near the capital, hours after martial law is lifted.

    Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested in the crackdown on peaceful protests in Bahrain

    Bahraini troops have attacked anti-government protesters in several villages near the capital Manama, witnesses say.

    Despite the lifting of martial law on Wednesday, regime forces fired tear gas on protesters who had poured into the streets to stage protest rallies in villages around Manama, including Diraz, Bani Jamrah and Karzakan, according to witnesses.

    "Protests are to be in main streets and squares ... the movement must return to important places ahead of the imminent return, God willing, to Martyr's Square"

    'February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition', Facebook page

    One activist reported a heavy security presence in Bani Jamrah and said about 30 women had gathered in front of his house, but security forces used batons and tear gas to disperse them.

    "With the end of the emergency situation, the security would not be here but they still are," said Ali Zirazdi, a 30 year-old man, who said police had fired tear gas after a few hundred people gathered in the predominantly Shia village of Diraz.

    "The security presence is even stronger and their approach now is as soon as they hear of any protest in advance, they come down to stop it from happening," Zirazdi added.

    Opposition activists in Bahrain called for a "fresh wave" of anti-government protest rallies across the country on Wednesday, as a state of emergency imposed during a March crackdown on protesters has ended.

    "Protests are to be in main streets and squares ... the movement must return to important places ahead of the imminent return, God willing, to Martyr's Square," said a post on "February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition" Facebook page, referring to the site of the demolished Pearl Square, which was the focal point of anti-government demonstrations from February until being destroyed during the government crackdown in March.

    Bahraini activists say their protest campaign will continue until the nation's demands are met.

    Amnesty International, the human rights group, had called on Manama to allow the planned protest rallies to go ahead and stop using violence against peaceful protesters.

    Law lifting 'insincere'

    The unrest comes despite the lifting of an emergency law, a step the authorities hope will help to restore normalcy in the kingdom rocked by political upheaval following anti-government protests.

    Nabeel Rajab, the vice president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera the government was not sincere in its lifting of the emergency law.

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    "I think we are going to see more protests in the coming days. The lifting [of the] state [of] emergency it was more to attract the Formula One  ... which was going to act as an indicator if Bahrain has come to normal or not," he said.

    "The Bahraini government is desperately trying to send out the message that everything is back to normal, but it is not. Today Bahrainis are gathered again, protesting on the streets of all the villages, more than 40 different protests all around Bahrain  ...  all of them were attacked from the moment they started and many people were injured by live ammunition, rubber bullets or tear gas."

    Bahrain imposed emergency rule in mid-March, giving the military powers to suppress demonstrations led by the country's Shia majority against the minority Sunni rulers. The protesters were inspired to rise up by other revolutions sweeping Arab nations around the Middle East and North Africa.

    With the end of martial law, tanks and soldiers withdrew from the centre of Manama, the capital, but numerous police checkpoints remained around the city.

    The move came a day after King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa offered a national dialogue with opposition figures on reforms.

    "The end of the national security law and announcement of dialogue are both positive. It will be a shame if anyone is negative about it," Jamal Fakhro, a Bahraini lawmaker, said. 

    At least 30 people were killed, since the protests for more rights and greater freedoms, began in February in the island nation, which hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

    Bahrain invited 1,500 troops from a Saudi-led Gulf force to help suppress the unrest when emergency rule was imposed.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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