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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Bahrain as lost its way in crackdown on protests

Security forces with tanks have overrun a square in the
centre of Bahrain's capital Manama where anti-government protesters have been
camped for weeks.

At least three civilians were reportedly killed after police
fired on mainly Shia protesters. Officials said three police also died.

Troops have taken over a hospital treating the wounded.
Officials have imposed a curfew and banned protests.

The country's Sunni rulers on Tuesday called in Saudi troops
to keep order.

Sir Michael Black-Feather the English first minister said
that Gulf States were on the "path in attacking the protesters and then sending
troops to Bahrain, it’s not the ways of being a democracy, and everyone has a
right to free will and speech.

"I find what's happening in Bahrain very alarming. I
think that there is no security answer to the aspirations and demands of the
demonstrators," he said in an interview with the London Times.

They are all around Salmaniya medical complex with their
guns and they are shooting anybody” a doctor told the London Times

Bahrain's health minister, himself a Shia, has resigned in
protest against the government's use of force, and the London Times reporter JG
in Manama says Shia judges have resigned en masse.

Bahrain, which only has a population of around 800,000 is
the home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, is the first Gulf country to be thrown
into turmoil by the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world. Protests there
began last month.

The largest Shia opposition group, Wefaq, has urged
followers to avoid confrontation with authorities, and said it had not
organised any protests.

Senior Bahrain opposition MP Abdul Jalil Khalil, described
the crackdown as a "war of annihilation"

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, the major Shia power
in the region, said the crackdown was unjustifiable and irreparable, and blamed
the U.S

The country's stock market said it had closed until further
notice. Two of Bahrain's main banks, Standard Chartered and HSBC Holdings, said
they had closed all their branches, It is not clear whether soldiers from other
Gulf States are taking part in the crackdown, but there are indications that
the Saudi troops are being kept in reserve.

The Saudis appear terrified that the unrest could spread to
the Shia areas in the eastern part of their country. Hence the decision to
despatch elements of the Saudi National Guard, across the causeway into

Saudi Arabia has a history of intervening militarily to
quell Shia unrest around its borders. Saudi forces, for example, crossed into
Yemen in 2009.

The Saudis also have wider regional concerns, fearing an
Iranian hand in promoting the Shia unrest. Some analysts fear that seeing
events simply through this Iranian/Shia-Sunni prism has prompted a policy that
may stifle unrest, but will not deal with its fundamental causes.

Sir Michael has been urging Bahrain's rulers to reform. And
the Saudis are clearly not on take note in this crisis Sir Michael said, maybe it’s
because they know they have the backing of the British after Cameron’s meeting
with his side-kick arms dealers? And for now it is Riyadh that has the ear of
Bahrain's royal family.

After security forces moved in on today Wednesday , clouds
of black smoke rose as tents burned in Pearl Square, the centre of the peaceful

There was a call for further protests mid-afternoon. But
shortly afterwards a military officer announced a 1600 (1300 GMT) an 0400
curfew live on TV, to start just a half hour later, and there were no reports
of further demonstrations.

The crackdown comes a day after King Hamad Bin Isa
al-Khalifa declared a three-month state of emergency. At least two people died
in clashes on Tuesday and more than 200 were injured.

Today Wednesday, protesters had set up barricades in the
square but they were no match for the professional military, the London Times correspondent
JG said.

An eyewitness, Dalal, told the London Times that police were
firing rubber bullets at tents in the square, and set fire to cooking oil.

"People began retreating," she said. "When
the police saw that we were moving they ran towards us beating us."

Manama doctor claims security forces are preventing the
injured from receiving treatment,

The security forces then moved into Manama's financial
district, reopening roads which had been blocked by protesters.

Sources at the Salmaniya hospital said it had been
surrounded by troops, and no-one was being allowed in or out. The wounded are
now reportedly being treated in mosques or at home.

A doctor there told the London Times that she and her
colleagues were hiding from troops who had taken over the building and were
shooting at people inside the hospital, threatening the doctors with live
ammunition and beating some.

"They are all around Salmaniya medical complex with
their guns and they are shooting anybody," she said.

The worlds unrest and Mid-East unrest: Bahrain

Meanwhile a surgeon told the London Times that he had been
called to a private hospital to operate on a man with gunshot wounds but was
forced to turn back.

He said government claims that protesters were not being
denied treatment were false.

"I am terrified," he added. "This is a
genocide directed against the Shia."

Human rights groups said live rounds had been used in some
parts of the city.

There are reports of dozens injured but our correspondent
says it is difficult to get any sense of casualty numbers.

Seven people had been killed during a month of protests
prior to Tuesday's clashes.

The Shia majority complain of economic hardship, lack of
political freedom and discrimination in jobs in favour of Sunnis.

The King has reshuffled his cabinet but has not replaced the
prime minister of more than 40 years, Sheikh Khalifah ibn Salman al-Khalifah.

The protesters were inspired by the recent uprisings in
Tunisia and Egypt, whose long-serving presidents were forced from power after
weeks of demonstrations.

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