mangalore today

Thousands of mourners defy army crackdown to bury 5 killed in Bahrain protests

Mtoday news / Mail

 Bahrain, Feb 18: Crowds defy army crackdown to attend funerals of dead protesters

    * Bahrain king must go, say mourners
    * Five dead, more than 200 injured
    * Unrest spreads through Middle East on ’unprecedented scale’
    * One person killed by gunfire today in Libya, two killed in Yemen



Procession: Mourners in Bahrain attend the funeral of Isa Abdel Hasan, a protester who died during violent clashes with Bahrain police on Thursday. They are demanding the downfall of Bahrain’s ruling monarchy

Thousands of mourners were today defying an army crackdown in Bahrain to attend the funerals of protesters as anti-government demonstrations spread across the region.

There were fears the funerals could spark further violent clashes as the mourners demand the downfall of Bahrain’s ruling monarchy.

The province’s embattled leaders had banned public gatherings and sent tanks and armed patrols into the streets in a bloody crackdown in the capital Manama.

But the latest defiance of the tiny Gulf state’s rulers came as simultaneous day of rage protests flared in Libya, Yemen and Jordan.


Rebellion: Bahraini Shiites attend the funeral Mahmud Mekki, 23, who was killed the day before during violent police raid on anti-regime protesters in the village of Sitra

Clashes: Thousands of anti-government protesters chanting anti-government slogans attend the funeral of Mahmoud Maki Abu Taki. At least five people have died and hundreds more are injured


By contrast there was a joyous victory march in Egypt’s Tahrir Square where protesters over threw Hosni Mubarak in riots that sparked unrest across the region.

Outside a village mosque in Bahrain, several thousand mourners gathered to bury three men killed in the crackdown.

Funeral mourners could be heard chanting anti-government slogans as the first body, covered in black velvet, was passed hand to hand toward a grave as it was being dug.

Amid the Shiite funeral rites, many chanted for the removal of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the entire Sunni dynasty that has ruled for more than two centuries in Bahrain, the first nation in the Gulf to feel the pressure for changes sweeping the Arab world.

Meanwhile, reform protests spread across neighbouring regions in Yemen, Jordan and Libya where up to 24 protesters were believed to have been killed by troops yesterday.


United in grief: Thousands of mourners are defying an army crackdown in Bahrain to attend the funerals of protesters killed in anti-government demonstrations

In Bahrain, the clampdown on protesters has brought tanks onto the streets of one of the most important Western allies in the Gulf.

The tiny kingdom of Bahrain is a key part of Washington’s military counter-balance to Iran by hosting the US Navy’s 5th Fleet. Bahrain’s rulers and their Arab allies depict any sign of unrest among their Shiite populations as a move by neighbouring Shiite-majority Iran to expand its clout in the region.

While part of the recent revolt in the Arab world, the underlying tensions in Bahrain are decades old and pit the majority Shiites against the Sunni elite.

After allowing several days of rallies in Manama by disaffected Shiites, the island nation’s Sunni rulers unleashed riot police who stormed a protest encampment in Pearl Square before dawn yesterday, firing tear gas, beating demonstrators or blasting them with shotgun sprays of birdshot.

In the government’s first public comment on the crackdown, foreign minister Khalid Al Khalifa said it was necessary because the demonstrators were ’polarising the country’ and pushing it to the ’brink of the sectarian abyss’.


Losing their grip: Bahrain Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa (L) and his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint press conference in Manama, Bahrain yesterday

The unrest has placed the United States in a now-familiar dilemma, torn between its desire for stability in a longstanding Arab ally and a need to uphold its own principles about the right of people to demonstrate for democratic change.

Revered cleric Sheikh Issa Qassem denounced the police attack on the square and said the authorities had shut the door to dialogue, but stopped short of calling for street protests.