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Bahrain sweeps into protest camp; 6 dead

Posted by Admin on March 16, 2011

02_20_2011_DC Bahrain Protest014.jpg

Bahrain Crisis

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110316/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_bahrain_protests

By BARBARA SURK and REEM KHALIFA, Associated Press Barbara Surk And Reem Khalifa, Associated Press 25 mins ago

MANAMA, Bahrain – Soldiers and riot police used tear gas and armored vehicles Wednesday to drive out hundreds of anti-government protesters occupying a landmark square in Bahrain’s capital, a day after emergency rule was imposed in the violence-wracked Gulf kingdom. At least six people were killed, according to witnesses and officials.

The full-scale assault launched at daybreak swept into Pearl Square, which has been the center of uprising against Bahrain’s rulers since it began more than a month ago. Stinging clouds of tear gas filled streets and black smoke rose from the square from the protesters’ tents set ablaze.

Witnesses said at least two protesters were killed when the square was stormed. Officials at Ibn Nafees Hospital said a third protester later died from gunshot wounds in his back. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of reprisals from authorities.

Meanwhile, Bahrain state TV also reported that two policemen died when they were hit by a vehicle after anti-government protesters were driven out. The Interior Ministry also at least one other policeman was killed, but did not give the cause.

It was unclear whether the offensive included soldiers from other Gulf nations who were dispatched to help Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, which has been under relentless pressure from the country’s majority Shiite Muslims to give up its monopoly on power.

But state TV broadcast video showing military vehicles in the square flying Bahrain’s red-and-white flag as security officials moved through the wreckage of the encampment, set up at the base of a towering monument to the country’s history as a pearl diving center. The video showed the ground littered with debris, including satellite dishes and charred tent poles.

Helicopters crisscrossed over the square, which was cleared by security forces late last month but was later retaken by protesters after a deadly confrontation with army units.

Protesters fled for cover into side streets and security forces blocked main roads into Manama. Mobile phones were apparently jammed in central Manama during the height of the attack and Internet service was at a crawl.

Hamid Zuher, a 32-year-old protester who slept at the square, said riot police first moved in on foot through a haze of tear gas, firing in the air.

“They fired tear gas and then opened fire,” Zuher said. “We lifted our arms and started saying ‘Peaceful, Peaceful.’ Then we had to ran away. There was so much tear gas and shooting.”

In Shiite villages, people went to mosques to pray in a sign of protest against the Pearl Square crackdown. Others lit fires in anger. Clashes were reported in other mostly Shiite areas of the country, where traffic was tightly controlled by military forces in an apparent attempt to prevent protest gatherings or a surge of people toward the capital.

The roadblock also kept protesters possibly injured in the Pearl Square raid from reaching the main state hospital, which was working on generator power. The extent of the blackout in Manama was not immediately clear.

The official Bahrain news agency said the emergency rule bans “rallies and disrupting the public order” and imposes “movement restrictions” and possible curfews in some locations.

For Bahrain’s authorities, clearing Pearl Square would be more of a symbolic blow against protesters than a strategic victory as opposition groups are still be able to mobilize marches and other actions against the leadership.

Bahrain’s king on Tuesday declared a three-month state of emergency and instructed the military to battle unrest in the strategic nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Shortly after the announcement, clashes erupted across the island nation, killing at least two civilians. Saudi officials also said one of it’s soldiers was killed.

Bahrain’s sectarian clash is increasingly viewed as an extension of the region’s rivalries between the Gulf Arab leaders and Shiite powerhouse Iran. Washington, too, is pulled deeply into the Bahrain’s conflict because of it’s key naval base — the Pentagon’s main Gulf counterweight to Iran’s growing military ambitions.

On Tuesday, Iran and it’s allied force in Lebanon, Hezbollah, denounced the presence of foreign soldiers in Bahrain. Iran has no direct political links with Bahrain’s main Shiite groups, but Iranian hard-liner in the past have called the tiny island nation that “14th Province” of the Islamic Republic.

Gulf rulers, particularly Saudi Arabia, fear that the collapse of Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy could embolden further revolts across the region and embolden the Saudi Shiite minority whose home region is connected to Bahrain by a causeway.

The state of emergency in the U.S.-backed regime gives Bahrain’s military chief wide authority to battle protesters demanding political reforms and equal rights for the majority Shiites.

Also Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rhodium Clinton expressed alarm over “provocative acts and sectarian violence,” and said she telephoned Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi to stress the need for the foreign forces to promote dialogue.

“We call for calm and restraint on all sides in Bahrain,” Clinton told reporters in Cairo, where she was urging on democratic currents that chased Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak from power last month.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon authorized military family members and civilians with non-emergency jobs to leave Bahrain as violence spread. A spokeswoman for Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Noof Buallay, said flights were operating normally at Manama’s airport.

The intervention of more than 1,000 Saudi-led troops from several Gulf nations was the first major cross-border military action to challenge one of the revolts sweeping across the Arab world. The Al Khalifa family has ruled Bahrain for 200 years.

The foreign troops are from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council‘s Peninsula Shield Force. The bloc is made up of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — all largely Sunni countries that have nervously watched the Arab world’s protests. The Saudi government on Tuesday withdrew accreditation to the chief Reuters correspondent there, complaining about a recent report on a protest in the kingdom. Reuters stood by its coverage.

Iran denounced the foreign intervention as “unacceptable” and predicted it would complicate the kingdom’s political crisis.

A senior Bahraini foreign affairs official, Hamad al-Amer, called the remarks “blatant intervention in internal Bahraini affairs” and said Iran’s ambassador to Bahrain was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.

A security official in Saudi Arabia said a Saudi sergeant was shot and killed by a protester in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. No other details were immediately given on the death of the soldier, identified as Sgt. Ahmed al-Raddadi. The Saudi official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

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Bahrain king orders release of political prisoners

Posted by Admin on February 23, 2011

Some thousands of Bahraini mourners participate ...
Some thousands of Bahraini mourners participate in a funeral march Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, in Malkiya
By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and BARBARA SURK, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi And Barbara Surk, Associated Press 1 hr 15 mins ago

MANAMA, Bahrain – Tens of thousands of red-and-white draped, flag-waving protesters flooded this tiny kingdom’s capital Tuesday, a massive show of force against the embattled monarchy as the king made another concession to the marchers — a promise to release an unspecified number of political prisoners.

Upbeat, determined demonstrators took over Manama for the day, circling the Bahrain Mall and Manama’s financial district, symbols of the country’s recent prosperity, in a march to the heart of the protest at Pearl Square.

“Egypt, Tunisia, are we any different?” marchers chanted, calling for the Sunni rulers they accuse of discriminating against the island’s Shiite majority to fall as the presidents of two other Arab countries have in recent weeks.

Helicopters hovered overhead but security forces offered no resistance after opening fire on protesters last week, and the size of the event rivaled any of the major demonstrations so far in the eight-day uprising.

The decree issued earlier Tuesday by Bahrain’s king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa covers several Shiite activists accused of plotting against the state. It underlined how much the absolute rulers of Bahrain want to kick start reform talks with opposition leaders, and the huge march in a nation of 525,000 citizens showed how much they need to.

The exact number of prisoners to be freed remains unclear, government spokeswoman Maysoon Sabkar said. But the inmates will include some of the 25 Shiite activists on trial for allegedly plotting against the monarchy, a leading member of Bahrain’s Shiite opposition, Abdul Jalili Khalil, told The Associated Press.

He called the prisoner release “a good step” and a “positive gesture.”

Two of those in the case are being tried in absentia, including prominent opposition leader Hassan Meshaima, who has been in self-exile in London since last year. Meshaima’s return to Bahrain was imminent, his supporters said.

The activist’s presence could bolster opposition forces seeking a harder line against the Bahrain dynasty, including some who have called for the complete ouster of the king and the family that has ruled for more than 200 years.

Meshaima’s group, known as Haq, is considered more radical than the main Shiite political bloc that has taken a central role in the revolt and is seeking the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.

A small group of Bahraini army officers joined the ranks of protesters to demand reforms and the resignation of the current government. They condemned the soldiers who shot at protesters on Friday.

“What we did to the people was not heroic,” said Yeussif Najri, an army officer. “We ask the people to forgive us, we ask the people for forgiveness.”

The government said Tuesday that the overall death toll was seven from last week’s clashes. Previous reports from opposition groups and hospital officials in the past week set the death toll at eight, but the government tally now appears accurate.

The government also said 25 people were hospitalized, but it’s unclear what degree of injury authorities used to arrive at that figure. Opposition groups place the figure at more than 200. Associated Press journalists at the main state hospital witnessed many dozens of people being treated.

The attacks on protesters have brought stinging denunciations from Bahrain’s Western allies, including the United States. The U.S. maintains very close ties with Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Bahrain authorities withdrew the military Saturday and allowed protesters to reclaim Pearl Square, the gathering point for the uprising and now a tent city of protesters.

Bahrain’s Shiite majority has complained of discrimination and political persecution in the kingdom. They have staged protests in the past, but the current unrest is the most serious against the Sunni rulers.

On Monday, Bahrain’s crown prince called off Formula One’s season-opening race scheduled for March 13, handing another victory to protesters. Shiite leaders said it would have been disrespectful the hold the race to which Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa owns the rights

Sabkar told reporters the “immediate priority is to keep the peace and maintain calm.” She said the government, led by the same prime minister — the king’s uncle — for 40 years, was “deeply saddened by the tragic events of the past few days and its condolences go out to those families who have lost loved ones.”

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Bahrain protesters gather in capital for third day

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/us_bahrain;_ylt=A0wNdPF9dFtNT28BHxas0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNhbGphY2EzBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwMjE2L3VzX2JhaHJhaW4EY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwMxBHBvcwMyBHB0A2hvbWVfY29rZQRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3J5BHNsawNiYWhyYWlucHJvdGU-

Protesters serve coffee and tea at the Pearl ...
Reuters – Protesters serve coffee and tea at the Pearl Roundabout, a famous landmark of Bahrain
By Cynthia Johnston Cynthia Johnston 30 mins ago

MANAMA (Reuters) – Thousands of Shi’ite demonstrators, inspired by popular revolts that toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, gathered in Bahrain’s capital on Wednesday to mourn for a second protestor killed in clashes this week.

Several hundred gathered at a funeral procession for a man shot dead when police and mourners clashed at an earlier funeral procession on Tuesday.

“We are requesting our rights in a peaceful way,” said Bakr Akil, a 20 year-old university student, wearing a sheet stained with red ink that he said was a symbol of his willingness to sacrifice his life for freedom.

“I am optimistic that our big presence will achieve our demands,” Akil said.

Women dressed in black abayas followed the procession with their own chants calling for peace and Bahraini unity.

Elsewhere in central Manama, witnesses say about 2,000 protestors had spent the night in tents at Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout, similar to the number marching on the streets a day earlier.

It remains to be seen whether the number would rise or fall during Wednesday. Some will have to return to work, after a public holiday on Tuesday to mark the Prophet Mohammed‘s birthday.

Police kept their distance, mostly confining themselves to a nearby dirt lot with dozens of SUV police vehicles. The ministry of Interior announced that all roads were open.

The demonstrators from Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority say the ruling Sunni minority shuts them out of housing, healthcare and government jobs.

“The United States is very concerned by recent violence surrounding protests in Bahrain,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement. “We also call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.”

The main Shi’ite opposition bloc Wefaq, which boycotted parliament to protest the clampdown by Sunni security forces, said it would hold talks with the government on Wednesday.

Protesters said their main demand was the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has governed the Gulf Arab state since its independence in 1971.

An uncle of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, he is thought to own much land and is seen as a symbol of the wealth of the ruling family.

DEMOGRAPHIC BALANCE

Activists say they also want the release of political prisoners, which the government has promised, and the creation of a new constitution.

Poverty, high unemployment and alleged attempts by the state to grant citizenship to Sunni foreigners to change the demographic balance have intensified discontent among Bahrain’s Shi’ites.

Around half of the tiny island kingdom’s 1.3 million people are Bahraini, the rest being foreign workers.

Analysts say large-scale unrest in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a regional offshore banking center, could embolden marginalized Shi’ites in nearby Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.

King Hamad expressed his condolences for “the deaths of two of our dear sons” in a televised speech and said a committee would investigate the killings.

Bahrain, in a move appeared aimed at preventing Shi’ite discontent from boiling over, had offered cash payouts of around 1,000 dinars ($2,650) per family in the run-up to this week’s protests.

(Reporting by Frederik Richter; writing by Reed Stevenson; editing by Matthew Jones)

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Suicide bombers kill at least 39 in southeast Iran

Posted by Admin on December 16, 2010

Site of suicide bombing

Suicide bombing Aftermath

http://www.headlinenewsbureau.com/siterun_data/news/world/doc1b7de88cfcf2a3c28f13b8ff47fe6c9c.html

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI | Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 10:14 am

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up near a mosque in southeastern Iran on Wednesday, killing at least 39 people, including a newborn baby, at a Shiite mourning ceremony, state media reported.

The attack, which also wounded 90 people, took place outside the Imam Hussein Mosque in the port city of Chahbahar, near the border with Pakistan, the official IRNA news agency said.

The bombers targeted a group of worshippers at a mourning ceremony a day before Ashoura, which commemorates the seventh century death of the Prophet Muhammad‘s grandson Hussein, one of Shiite Islam‘s most beloved saints.

An armed Sunni militant group called Jundallah, or Soldiers of God, claimed responsibility in a statement posted on its website. The group has carried out sporadic attacks in Iran’s southeast to fight alleged discrimination against the area’s Sunni minority in overwhelmingly Shiite Iran.

The group said Wednesday’s attack was a second act of revenge for the execution of its leader, Abdulmalik Rigi, in June.

“This operation is a warning to the Iranian regime that it must end its interference in the religious affairs of the Sunnis, stop executions and release the prisoners,” said the Internet statement. “Otherwise, martyrdom operations will continue with a stronger forcer.”

One of the attackers detonated a bomb outside the mosque and the other struck from among a crowd of worshippers, state TV reported.

Security forces shot one of them, but the bomber was still able to detonate the explosives, the report added, quoting deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi. A third attacker was arrested, state TV said.

Forensic official Fariborz Ayati put the number of dead at 39 and said they included three women and one newborn baby, IRNA reported.

Mahmoud Mozaffar, a senior Iranian Red Crescent Society official, said emergency services had been put on alert over the past few days because of anonymous threats, according to another news agency, ISNA.

The deputy interior minister blamed Sunni militants, an apparent reference to Jundallah.

“Evidence and the kind of equipment used suggest that the terrorists were affiliated with extremist … groups backed by the U.S. and intelligence services of some regional states,” Abdollahi told state TV.

Iranian officials claim Jundallah, which has operated from bases in Pakistan, receives support from Western powers, including the United States. Washington denies any links to the group, and in November the State Department added Jundallah to a U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

President Barack Obama condemned the attack and said the United States stands with the loved ones of those killed and with the Iranian people.

“This and other similar acts of terrorism recognize no religious, political or national boundaries. The United States condemns all acts of terrorism wherever they occur,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said the bombing sought to create sectarian splits in the country.

“The aim of the terrorists … is to sow discord among Shiites and Sunnis,” he said. “Such actions can be done only by the Zionist regime and the U.S.”

In July, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a mosque in the same province, Sistan-Baluchestan, killing at least 28 people. Jundallah had said that attack, too, was revenge for the execution of its leader a month earlier.

The strike in July also targeted Shiite worshippers during a holiday, in that case Hussein’s birthday.

The group has also attacked members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the country’s most powerful military force.

In its deadliest strike, a suicide bomber hit a meeting between Guard commanders and Shiite and Sunni tribal leaders in the border town of Pishin in October 2009, killing 42 people, including 15 Guard members.

Drug traffickers and smugglers also are active along the barren frontier area of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan and have launched attacks on security forces.

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