Thousands of supporters of the Shiite opposition Al-Wefaq society wave Bahraini flags during a rally Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Tubli, Bahrain, near the capital of Manama. (Photo:AP)
Bahraini security forces fired tear gas to stop protesters from marching on Friday towards the capital's Pearl Square, the epicentre of anti-regime demonstrations six months ago, witnesses said.
Security forces had deployed heavily in central Manama and surrounded the square with barbed wire barricades to prevent small groups of protesters, including some 50 women, from approaching.
Demonstrators camped out in Pearl Square between mid-February and mid-March until security forces, boosted by a Saudi-led Gulf regiment, drove them out in a deadly crackdown and demolished the monument there.
The demonstrators on Friday were responding to calls made by activists online in protest against Saturday's by-elections which were boycotted by the main Shiite opposition bloc Al-Wefaq.
The elections are for 18 seats left vacant in the 40-member parliament after MPs from Al-Wefaq quit in February in protest over the crackdown by security forces on peaceful demonstrators.
Authorities say 24 people were killed in the unrest earlier this year, including four policemen. The opposition puts the death toll at 30.