Bahrain F1 goes ahead today despite violence

Gulf state's Grand Prix set to take place despite violence and international condemnation
By Claire Valdini
Sun 22 Apr 2012 10:07 AM

Bahrain’s controversial
Formula One Grand Prix event will go ahead today despite ongoing violence in the Gulf state.

Authorities in Bahrain have
said they are confident the race, which is due to start at 3pm, will not be
disrupted by protesters after authorities bolstered security around the race
track.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa
al Khalifa on Sunday declared he was committed to reform, saying in a statement
he wanted to “make clear my personal commitment to reform and reconciliation in
our great country”.

“The door is always open for
sincere dialogue amongst all our people,” he added.

Protests in the Gulf state
intensified at the weekend after the body of a Shia man killed in clashes with
security forces was discovered just hours before the event was due to begin.

It has since been claimed that Salah Abbas
Habib was killed by shotgun pellets fired by riot police.

Anti-government protesters
have threatened “days of rage”, but organisers have ignored calls to cancel the
race for a second year running. Human rights groups and activists estimate that
at least 25 people have died since the latest round of protests began.

Bahrain’s Crown Prince
Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa has said scrapping the race “just empowers
extremists”, and has insisted that holding the race would “build bridges across
communities”.

Jean Todt, president of
governing body FIA, said he had no regrets about the decision to go ahead with
the race. “On rational facts, it was decided there was no reason to change our
mind,” he said.

On Thursday evening a
petrol bomb exploded near a vehicle carrying four members of the Force India
support team. The team said two staff, a data engineer and a radio
contractor, had decided to return home to the UK after the incident.

The Gulf state has been in
turmoil since a democracy movement erupted last year following Arab Spring uprisings in
Egypt and Tunisia.

Protests were initially
crushed, killing dozens, but youths still clash daily with
riot police in Shi'ite Muslim districts, and thousands take part in opposition
rallies.

Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim ruling al-Khalifa
dynasty hopes the race will offer an opportunity to show the world
that Bahraini life is returning to normal.

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