Riot police storm protest camp


Bahraini anti-government demonstrators at a protest camp in Bahrain

Riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets have stormed a landmark square in Bahrain occupied by anti-government protesters, driving out demonstrators and destroying a makeshift encampment that became the hub for demands of sweeping political changes in the kingdom.

Main opposition group Al Wefaq said at least two people were dead after the assault on Pearl Square in the capital Manama.

Hospitals across the city were on alert for more causalities.

After police regained control of the square they continued to chase protesters through side streets.

The blow by authorities marked a dramatic shift in the protests. It appeared Bahrain’s leaders sought to contain security forces after clashes on Monday that left at least two people dead and brought sharp criticism from Western allies, including the US

Police had held back on Wednesday as tens of thousands of protesters crowded into the seaside square, dominated by a 300ft monument to Bahrain’s history as a pearl diving centre.

The Egypt-inspired protests began on Monday as a cry for the country’s Sunni monarchy to loosen its grip, including hand-picking most top government posts and open more opportunities for the country’s majority Shiites, who have long complained of being blocked from decision-making roles or key posts in the military.

But the uprising’s demands have steadily grown bolder. Many protesters are calling for the government to provide more jobs and better housing, free all political detainees and abolish a system that offers Bahraini citizenship to Sunnis from around the Middle East as a way to close the population gap with Shiites, who account for 70 % of the population.

Increasingly, protesters are also chanting slogans to wipe away the entire ruling dynasty that has led Bahrain for more than 200 years and is firmly backed by the Sunni sheikhs and monarchs across the Gulf.

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