Six Dead in Bahrain as Soldiers Evict Protesters from Pearl Square

Six are reported dead as troops and riot police used tear gas and other force to evict hundreds of demonstrators from their vigil in Pearl Square in the capital city of Manama, Bahrain. This action came after just one day of emergency rule which had been imposed on the violent-stricken kingdom.

Assault Began at Daylight

Pearl Square has been the center of protests in Bahrain since  unrest began about one month ago. Protesters have been staging a continuous protest there, demanding that the Sunni monarchy relinquish at least some of its power to the Shi’ite majority which makes up the population of Bahrain. Soldiers staged a full-scale assault on Pearl Square, sending tear gas into the crowd and setting tents ablaze. Officials and witnesses said that six people were killed in the action, and at Ibn Nafees Hospital one of the dead was a protester who died later from a gunshot wound to his back.

According to Bahrain state TV two policemen were also killed when they were struck by a car as the protesters were evacuating the square. The Interior Ministry also announced that a third policeman was killed without defining the cause of death.

Which Soldiers Led the Assault?

As of yesterday soldiers from other Gulf States were sent to protect Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy but it is still unclear whether foreign troops or Bahraini soldiers, or a combination of the two, led the attack.  The military vehicles which were in the attack flew the red and white flag of Bahrain, perhaps indicating that the soldiers were Bahraini. Helicopters flew over the square while protesters ran into side streets and security forces blocked main roads in Manama. Cellular phones were jammed in central Manama at the peak of the assault, and internet access was severely restricted.

Emergency Rule Declared

On Tuesday the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, declared a three month state of emergency. According to officials emergency rule bans “rallies and disrupting public order” and demands “movement restrictions” including curfews in some places.  The King also ordered his military to fight the civil unrest. After emergency rule was announced there were clashes across the country resulting in the deaths of two civilians and one Saudi soldier.

Bahrain is a small island nation in the Persian Gulf with a high strategic profile. The US Navy’s 5th fleet is hosted in Bahrain. Iran has criticized the presence of foreign soldiers in Bahrain, and although there are no direct political ties with the main Bahraini protesters, Iran has referred to Bahrain in the past as the Iran Republic’s “14th Province.” Iran has called for a “peaceful” settlement of the dispute between the ruler and the ruled in Bahrain.

The rulers of the Gulf States, who are Sunni Muslims, fear that a Shi’ite victory in Bahrain against the Sunni rulers there could give inspiration to the Shi’ites among their own populations, especially in the case of Saudi Arabia.

Clinton Calls for Calm

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State is afraid the situation in the Gulf States could escalate to full scale war and has criticized what she called “provocative acts and sectarian violence.” She also asked the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi to urge the foreign forces to promote dialogue and not escalate the violence.

“We call for calm and restraint on all sides in Bahrain,” Clinton told reporters in Cairo.