Bahrain, a tiny island nation flanked by Saudi Arabia and Iran, showed its willingness today to use force to stymie growing calls for reform. At least three protesters were reported dead in an overnight raid.
Tony Mitchell, HO/AP Photo
At least three people are reported dead and dozens more seriously injured in Bahrain after riot police violently dispersed protesters in the capital – escalating the confrontation and underscoring the government's willingness to use force to stymie the growing calls for political reform.
The raid – in which police used tear gas, batons, and bird-shot – took place overnight as security forces targeted a large crowd of demonstrators who had gathered at a protest camp at the landmark Pearl Roundabout in the capital, Manama.
The police action was clearly aimed at preventing a mass demonstration planned for Saturday to call for constitutional reform and a more representative parliament in a country where political power is concentrated in the hands of the ruling Al-Khalifah family.
But it's unclear whether the harsh action – which included dozens of Army trucks and armored vehicles – will tamp down protests that have been buoyed by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, or only serve to energize protesters, further destabilizing the Persian Gulf kingdom.
Armored cars are now patrolling the streets of the capital, and all further protests have been banned by the authorities. But sporadic clashes have occurred in different parts of the city.