– Bahrain: riot police fire on protest camp (Telegraph):
Riot police have stormed a protest camp in Bahrain’s capital, killing at least four people, as the government tried to quell three days of protest.
Hundreds of security forces used batons, rubber bullets and tear gas on demonstrators who had been camped out in Pearl Square calling for political reform.
In the clashes that followed, an estimated 100 people were injured.
After the police had cleared the square in the capital Manama, 50 tanks were deployed to patrol the city’s streets in a show of force by the authorities.
“Police are coming, they are shooting teargas at us,” one protestor said amid the chaos. Another said: “I am wounded, I am bleeding. They are killing us.”
At least four people have been killed in an early-morning raid by security forces on Pearl Square, the focal point of anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain, sparking street battles with riot police.
Armoured trucks have been seen in central Manama and key roads are blocked by security forces. The crackdown follows a dramatic and violent turn in three days of protests calling for widespread reform within Bahrain’s ruling minority. Dozens of wounded protesters were being taken to hospitals across the city on Thursday morning.
Riot police stormed the rallying point for the demonstrations, a landmark known as Pearl roundabout, at around 3.15am, firing teargas and birdshot, and wielding clubs and knives, which they used to cut through tents set up by demonstrators.
“We were asleep and they started slicing through our tent,” said Nabeel Ebrahim, who was sleeping alongside two trauma surgeons from Salmaniya hospital. “They started firing gas from the overpass and attacking us from all directions.”
One of the doctors, Sadiq al-Ikri, is receiving treatment in the critical care unit of the hospital he works in. “He was handcuffed and then kicked repeatedly in the head, face and body,” one of his colleagues said. “We have nine other seriously wounded patients.”
In the nearby morgue, two protesters lay dead, their bodies covered by wounds from birdshot rounds. Their deaths take to four the number of demonstrators killed in the past four days and place intense pressure on a regime that has been struggling to contain the fallout from an uprising that is gaining momentum.
Ambulances are being prevented from arriving at Pearl roundabout to collect dozens of wounded people thought to be trapped there. A fleet of 20 ambulances was forced to leave the hospital grounds by up to 2,000 angry demonstrators, who then set off on foot to try to reclaim the roundabout.
They were quickly beaten back by riot police firing sound grenades and teargas as they charged towards the demonstrators, who retreated to the hospital grounds. Several more were wounded in the clashes.
One ambulance driver said he was stopped by police, who violently removed wounded protesters from the back of his vehicle and ordered him at gunpoint to leave.
Protesters have reacted angrily to the use of violence, which caught them by surprise and has brought a sudden end to plans to camp in the centre of town until the government meets their demands for change. The campsite now appears abandoned and is strewn with blankets and litter.
The overwhelmingly Shia groups in the hospital grounds chanted: “Down with the regime, with our blood we will defend our rights.”
One man, Bassem Serror, had just arrived at Salmaniya hospital after being freed from a police station and picked up by a passing ambulance. His body has marks from shotgun pellets and there were signs he had been beaten.
Several villages on the outskirts of Manama, Sanabis and Daih have been overrun by police looking for the protest organisers.
The crackdown comes amid international calls for the regime of King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa to listen to the concerns of the mainly Shia demonstrators, who say they are discriminated against by the Sunni elite, whose numbers have sharply increased in recent years through selective immigration from neighbouring Sunni Arab states.
“There will be no guidance for the people now,” Ebrahim said. “Now there will be no restraints on the people. They will not listen to anyone.”
The government has not yet officially commented on the latest violence.
– Bahrain protests: Q&A (Telegraph)