Bahrain king hails military crackdown on protesters

Thursday, February 17, 2011

MANAMA/TEHRAN - Bahrain’s king has praised the military for its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Manama even as he stressed that the government has widened the scope for “peaceful and legal freedom of expression”.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Thursday discussed the raid as well as his government’s ongoing strategy with Commander-in-Chief Marshal Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and top-ranking defence officials, Iran’s Press TV reported Friday.

He later addressed troops and praised them for their “bravery and readiness to assume their national duties”.

In a statement issued from the military base, the king said the government has widened the scope for peaceful and legal freedom of expression, the report said.

Within hours of the king’s departure from the base, around 60 to 70 tanks and armoured personnel carriers descended on Manama.

At least seven protesters have died over the four days of clashes in the country.

Four people were killed early Thursday when police cracked down on sleeping protesters in the Bahrain capital, an action that led to a minister reportedly quitting. By daybreak, tanks were seen rolling down the streets of the restive city swept by the winds of change that began in Tunisia and Egypt.

The pre-dawn attack took place when the protesters were asleep at Pearl Roundabout, the focal point for demonstrators seeking reform in the country that has a constitutional monarchy.

The protests began in Bahrain this week following the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, 82, in Egypt. The Egypt uprising not only brought an end to Mubarak’s 30-year rule, but also inspired copycat protests in Yemen, Iran and Libya.

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