Bahrain march ends in street clashes, tear gas attacks

Riot police wade in to break up clashes between Sunni militants, Shi’ite mourners in Muharraq
Bahrain march ends in street clashes, tear gas attacks
Flashback to the Bahrain protests in March last year
By Reuters
Sun 22 Jan 2012 08:39 AM

Bahraini
police fired tear gas to break up a march on Saturday by thousands of Shi'ites
mourning a man whom activists said was killed in custody but officials said had
drowned, residents said.

Dozens
of pro-government Sunni militants attacked the mourners, as riot police tried
to break up the clashes and keep the two sides apart in Muharraq, a town north
of the capital Manama, they said.

"Some
shop windows were broken during the clashes. I know one was owned by a Shi'ite
and one by a Sunni," said a resident adding that police detained at least
four people.

Clashes
between security forces and mainly Shi'ite opposition activists have taken
place on an almost daily basis after the Sunni-dominated government crushed a
pro-democracy uprising last year.

The
island nation, home to the US Fifth Fleet, is seen by the United States and
Saudi Arabia as a key ally against non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran just across Gulf
waters.

"Police
warned mourners several times [the] procession was unauthorized before using
legal procedures to disperse the crowd and protect civil peace," the
Interior Ministry said on its Twitter page.

The
main Shi'ite opposition group Wefaq called the police intervention against the
funeral a "violation of human and religious rights", according to its
Twitter message.

The
funeral was for a 24-year-old Shi'ite found dead a few days after he went
missing. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said his body showed signs of
torture, but the Interior Ministry said he suffered from psychological problems
and had drowned.

Inspired
by Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of mainly Shi'ite Bahrainis
took to the streets last February and March demanding curbs on the power of the
ruling Sunni Muslim Al-Khalifa family and an end to perceived discrimination.

The
broader pro-democracy movement was suppressed with military backing from
Bahrain's Sunni-led Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

At
least 35 people, including five members of the security forces, were killed in
the unrest, according to an inquiry Bahrain commissioned into the protests and
their aftermath. The inquiry said it found evidence of systematic abuse and
torture.

Bahrain
has promised to implement the inquiry's recommendations, which the US Congress
has linked to its approval of a $53m arms sale to Manama. Opposition groups
doubt the kingdom's commitment to reform.

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