Feb
13

Bahrain police fire teargas at protesters in capital

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Ahead of anniversary of Shia-led uprising forces launch stun grenades to curb protesters trying to regain Pearl Square

Security forces in Bahrain have fired teargas and stun grenades at protesters trying to occupy Pearl Square in the nation’s capital ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Gulf kingdom’s Shia-led uprising.

Thousands of opposition supporters marched through Manama’s streets in the largest attempt in months to retake Pearl Square, the central roundabout that served as the epicentre of weeks of protests last year by Bahrain’s Shia majority against the ruling Sunni dynasty.

Thousands of riot police and other security forces have staked out positions around the square and across the Gulf island nation to prevent the opposition from staging a mass rally in or near the plaza to mark Tuesday’s one-year anniversary of the revolt.

Opposition supporters were undeterred by the authorities’ warnings of zero tolerance for anti-government activities around the strategic island that is the home of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

“We will not back down,” said Nader Abdulimam, who had taken refuge in a house just outside of Manama with other protesters overcome by teargas. “This has gone on for one year and it will go for another year or more.”

Some protesters hurled firebombs and rocks after the security forces fired teargas. In an area about 6 miles (10km) west of central Manama, a number of demonstrators stood on top of Bahrain’s ancient burial mounds – some more than 5,000 years old – waving flags featuring the image of Pearl Square’s six-pronged monument.

More than 50 police vehicles filled a site that protesters have dubbed “Freedom Square”, which hosted several government-sanctioned opposition gatherings last week.

After the government imposed martial law last March in response to the demonstrations, security forces stormed the protesters’ encampment in a bid to crush the uprising. The authorities then razed the towering white monument that stood in the centre of the plaza.

The now heavily guarded square holds great symbolic value for Bahrain’s opposition movement, and protesters have repeatedly tried to reoccupy it. But authorities have effectively locked off the capital to demonstrations since March.

Emergency rule was lifted in June, but street battles between security forces and protesters still flare up almost every day in the predominantly Shia villages around the capital.

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