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Sat 19 Mar 2011 04:43 PM

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Bahrain reduces curfew, schools to return to normal hours

Curfew cut by four hours, Education Ministry calls on all staff to return to work on Sunday

Bahrain reduces curfew, schools to return to normal hours

Bahrain cut curfew hours on

Saturday and urged Bahrainis to return to work after a crackdown

on mainly Shi'ite Muslim protesters this week raised tensions in

the world's largest oil-producing region.

The call came as a fourth protester died of wounds sustained

when troops and police moved on Wednesday to end weeks of unrest

that prompted the king to declare martial law and led to troops

being sent from Bahrain's Sunni-ruled neighbour, Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain's largest Shi'ite Muslim group, Wefaq, said the

latest death brought the number of protesters killed since the

start of the unrest last month to 11. Four police have also been

killed this week, some of them mown down by protesters in cars.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain has since arrested at least nine

opposition activists, including two doctors from Manama's

largest public hospital, which remains surrounded by troops who

check identities and carry out regular searches.

The ferocity of the crackdown, in which troops and police

fanned out across Bahrain, imposed a curfew and banned all

public gatherings and marches, has stunned Bahrain's Shi'ites

and angered the region's non-Arab Shi'ite Muslim power, Iran.

Mourners at the funeral of one of the protesters killed in

this week's crackdown were defiant. Shaking their fists and

shouting "down with King Hamad", thousands gathered at the

burial of computer technician Ahmed Abdullah Ahsan in the

Shi'ite suburb of Diah on Saturday.

"I'm not angry. I'm proud of my son. He is a martyr," his

mother said. "He wanted the end of this regime."

Ahsan was buried in a plot near the first man killed in the

uprising that began last month and whose grave was covered in

flowers and photographs. As men lowered the body into the grave,

the women, clad in black chadors broke off to hold a small

protest at the side of the road.

"Down with the regime," they shouted.

Ahsan was the second protester to be buried this week, and

police and troops have not intervened to disperse mourners

despite a blanket ban on all public gatherings.

In an effort to bring life gradually back to normal,

Bahrain's military rulers cut back by four hours on Saturday a

12 hour curfew that had been imposed on large areas of the

capital Manama.

The curfew now runs from 8pm to 4am from

the Seef Mall area in Manama, through the Pearl roundabout and

the financial district to the diplomatic area.

Bahrain also urged employees working in the public sector

and both public and private sector schools and universities to

return to work after days of closures and shortened hours.

Some of the larger malls began to reopen on Saturday, after

days of closures and there were fewer checkpoints in the

streets, though helicopters still buzz over Shi'ite areas.

On Friday, diggers tore down the statue at the centre of

Pearl roundabout, focal point of weeks of protests, in what the

foreign minister said was an effort to erase "bad memories".

The unrest had brought Bahrain's economy to a virtual

standstill and schools and universities had been closed to

prevent sectarian clashes that had begun to erupt daily.

More than 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shi'ites. Most are

campaigning for a constitutional monarchy, but calls by

hardliners for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed

Sunnis, who fear the unrest serves Iran, separated from Saudi

Arabia and Bahrain by only a short stretch of Gulf waters.

Shi'ite Muslim power Iran, which supports Shi'ite groups in

Iraq and Lebanon, complained to the United Nations and asked

other neighbours to join it in urging Saudi Arabia to withdraw.

On Saturday, Shi'ites in Iraq protested in solidarity with

their Bahraini co-religionists. A protest also took place on

Friday in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, home to the

country's Shi'ite majority and oil fields.

But Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed

al-Khalifa, told a news conference on Friday that more Gulf Arab

troops would be arriving in Bahrain and that they would stay for

as long as Bahrain needed to restore order, though their mission

would be limited to guarding strategic facilities such as oil.

Kuwait was also sending a medical team to Bahrain on Sunday,

Bahrain News Agency said. The news comes as doctors complain

that access to Salmaniya hospital has been held back by troops.

Doctors said two colleagues who had spoken out about the

casualties received during weeks of unrest had been detained and

human rights groups have called for their release.

"The government is depriving them of their liberty in a

completely arbitrary manner, apparently for their leading roles

in peaceful protests demanding democracy," said Joe Stork,

deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Also on Saturday, the General Command of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) banned all people, including professional and amateur fishermen, from any sea activity between 5pm and 6am, warning that any ship spotted moving during this time would be "dealt with appropriately".

The ban will be effective from Saturday until further notice, BNA reported.

ARShehab 8 years ago

Sorry but many people from outside the region have wrong information about the population of Bahrain. In fact Sunnis Muslim form 54-55% of the population. Sheiat form 41-42% only.
These Sheiat are supported by Iran and Hezbullah in Lebanon.
There is no comparison between what happened in Tunis and Egypt and what is happening in Bahrain. More than 50% dont want to change the regime even 50% of Sheiat have the same beleive.
The small fraction of Sheiat who were trained by Hezbullah and Lieberty Forces in Iran want to takeover the country against the majority.
The GCC forces didnt come to crackdown demonstrations. They simply came to protect the main sensitive areas in Bahrain, as per the treaty between the GCC countries.
Many policemen were killed by the terrorists Sheiat, but the article didnt say how many policemen were killed since the unrest started.
Alhamdolilah, now things are back normal here in Bahrain.

HD 8 years ago

U R completely wrong , shehab !

Go and see the statistic chart and U will find the facts about the population of the Shias in Bahrain who are living in poverty.