Thousands attend funerals of clash-victims in Bahrain

Friday, February 18, 2011

MANAMA/LONDON - Thousands of people, who gathered in Bahrain for the funerals of those killed in clashes between demonstrators and police in the capital Manama, are planning more protests against the ruling family after the Friday prayers, media reports said.

Mourners waved banners and shouted slogans against the government. Some said they were ready to die for change, BBC reported.

Four people were killed early Thursday when police cracked down on sleeping protesters in Manama, 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.

Hundreds were also injured Thursday in the crackdown on anti-government protesters, DPA reported.

A pro-government demonstration is also expected to be held, just hours after Bahrain banned public gatherings.

Tanks have been stationed at strategic points around the streets of Manama, the report said. Soldiers would take every measure necessary to preserve security, the interior ministry said.

“There is going to be violence, there are going to be clashes,” a protester told BBC early Friday, ahead of the planned funerals.

The use of the military in recent protests has put the Bahraini royal family in direct confrontation with members of the Shia Muslim majority who make up the bulk of the protesters.

Western countries have urged Bahrain to show restraint in dealing with protesters and called for meaningful reform in the country.

On Thursday, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa discussed the military crackdown on protesters 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.

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

Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy. Its prime minister, Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa, has been in power since 1971 — the longest serving unelected prime minister in the world.

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