Protesters block entrance to Bahrain parliament

Monday, February 28, 2011

MANAMA - Bahrain protesters Monday blocked the entrances to the upper house of the National Assembly, or Shura, forcing a temporary shut down.

Students from several high schools also joined the protests across the Gulf island - either marching to parliament or demonstrating inside their schools in support of the nationwide demands since Feb 14 for political reforms.

Students from a university on the outskirts of the capital Manama marched towards the country’s state-owned television station, BTV.

The demonstrators surrounding the National Assembly building called for the release of detainees and the prosecution of ministers and officials involved in attacks on peaceful protesters, in which seven died and hundreds were injured since the unrest began.

The protests come a day after parliamentarians from Al-Wefaq, an Islamic Shiite opposition group, resigned over the attacks on demonstrators.

Shia Muslims make up more than 70 percent of Bahrain’s population, but the ruling family is Sunni Muslim.

Bahrain King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa had last week carried out a limited cabinet reshuffle and pardoned more then 300 detainees in an effort to encourage a dialogue between the government and the opposition.

But the opposition has said the reshuffle was not enough and that the cabinet must resign before talks can start. The opposition also said it wanted assurances that further political reforms would be introduced.

US President Barack Obama Sunday said Bahrain’s king had made “important changes” to his cabinet and was “restating his commitment to reform”.

Obama in a statement also backed a national dialogue launched by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.

The Obama administration has been cautious in its approach to the ongoing protests in Bahrain, which is a key US ally in the region and hosts the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

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