Bahrain Crown Prince says military forces ordered to leave the streets in bid to calm escalating violence
Bahraini riot police retreated from Pearl Square on Saturday and thousands of anti-government protesters streamed back into their former stronghold in Manama.
Crowds had approached Pearl Square from different directions. They stood facing riot police for half an hour. Without warning, police ran to their buses and retreated.
The protesters, cheering and waving flags, ran to the centre of the traffic circle, reoccupying it even before all the police had left. The crowd waved the fleeing policemen through. Police vehicles drove over pavements in their haste to get out.
"We don't fear death any more, let the army come and kill us to show the world what kind of savages they are," said Umm Mohammed, a teacher wearing a black abaya cloak.
Protesters cheered and kissed the ground in joy and took pictures of about 60 police vehicles leaving the area. One man fell to his hands and knees in tears.
Some casualties arrived at Salmaniya hospital with slight injuries.
Troops in tanks and armoured vehicles earlier withdrew from the square, which they had taken over on Thursday after riot police attacked protesters who had camped out there, killing four people and wounding 231.
"We took this square in a peaceful manner. The Khalifa henchmen, they killed my friends here," said one protester, referring to Bahrain's Sunni Muslim ruling family.
Bahrain's crown prince announced that all troops had been ordered off the streets and that police would maintain order.
Thousands of people were walking towards Pearl Square to join the crowds already there. Medics hugged each other. People waved victory signs and banners saying "peace".
Some put up tents, preparing to reinstate the protest encampment broken up by police two days ago.
Hundreds of women wearing black abayas gathered in the square, while young men clambered up the pearl monument in the traffic circle, waving Bahraini flags.An ambulance driver drove up to them and people hugged him.