Bahrain police fire tear gas at protest: witnesses

AFP , Tuesday 12 Feb 2013

Bahraini authorities disperse protesters using gas during a march to to Pearl Square, the now-crushed symbol of their uprising that they occupied two years ago

Bahraini police fired tear gas and stun grenades Tuesday to disperse protesters trying to march to Pearl Square, the now-crushed symbol of their uprising that they occupied two years ago, witnesses said.

Hundreds of people marched towards the square in the capital Manama carrying Bahraini flags and chanting: "Square of martyrdom, we all still have the will".

The February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition, a clandestine radical cyber group, had called for demonstrations marking the second anniversary of the Shiite-led uprising against the Sunni regime.

During the uprising on February 14, 2011, protesters had camped for one month at Pearl Square before being forcefully driven out in mid-March 2011. Authorities later razed the square.

The attempt to march to the square came after the main Shiite opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq, organised a massive protest in which thousands took part in the Shiite village of Sanabis, near Manama.

"Down with the corrupt government," the demonstrators chanted.

"Khalifa resign," they called, referring to the king's uncle Prince Khalifa bin Salman, who has been prime minister for four decades.

The interior ministry said on Twitter that after the opposition's rally ended, "a group of saboteurs caused riot and blocked roads, requiring authorities to take legal action against them".

Opposition supporters have been demonstrating for more than a week ahead of the anniversary.

Bahrain has been rocked by unrest since its forces crushed the Shiite-led protests in March 2011. The unrest has so far left 80 people dead, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

The kingdom has been in political deadlock since February 2011 and a similar round of talks failed that year, with the government of Bahrain, which is home to the US Fifth Fleet, making no political concessions to the opposition.

Opposition groups, including Al-Wefaq, have made a last-minute decision to join a national dialogue that began Sunday.

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