Bahrain's clearing of the main protest site in its capital city escalates the conflict between the Sunni ruling family and the majority Shiite protesters.
14 February Media Committee/AP
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Security forces in Bahrain’s capital early Wednesday forcefully drove out hundreds of protesters from the Pearl Roundabout, the symbolic center of the month-long uprising, escalating the conflict between majority Shiite protesters and the Sunni ruling family and sharply reducing the chances of political reconciliation.
The move came a day after Bahrain’s King Hamad declared a state of emergency and two days after Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations sent troops into fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Bahrain to help the kingdom’s security forces confront protesters, a development that deeply angered opposition groups. It is unclear whether the foreign troops participated in the attacks on protesters Wednesday morning.
The last time that Bahrain forcibly cleared the Pearl Roundabout in February, killing seven people in the process, the use of force only mobilized the protesters, who later retook the square. Wednesday’s crackdown is likely to only harden their resolve. The uprising began with calls for a more representative constitutional monarchy, other political reforms, and equal rights for Shiites, who make up about 70 percent of the population and complain of strong discrimination. But as the government has cracked down, demands have turned to dethroning the ruling family.