Demonstrators calling for democratic reform clashed with police yesterday in Shia villages near Manama ahead of an international forum on Middle East security, witnesses said.
A Shia-led uprising to demand changes in the kingdom was crushed in March 2011 but almost weekly protests against the authorities have been since staged in Shia villages around Manama.
Yesterday, dozens of protesters, mostly youths, clashed with police in the villages of Sanabis, Deraz, Sitra and Diya, hurling stones and petrol bombs at the security forces, witnesses said.
The protesters also blocked roads with burning tyres, the witnesses said.
Police responded by firing teargas and sound bombs to disperse them, they added. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
In the village of Sar near Manama, thousands of people took to the streets at the call of the main Shia opposition bloc Al Wefaq to protest against a crackdown on opposition activists.
Witnesses said the protesters held up pictures of jailed Shia opposition leaders and banners carrying “messages” for top officials, including from Britain and the United States, attending the two-day Manama Dialogue forum.
“To those meeting at the Manama Dialogue (conference): Are you aware that there are female detainees in Bahraini jails?” read one banner.
“Why do you support democracy for people of other countries ... (and not) in Bahrain?” read another banner.
Witnesses said police beefed up security in Shia villages ahead of the forum and set up checkpoints on roads leading to the hotel hosting the four-day conference in the Seef area near the capital.
Bahraini authorities have banned protests from taking place in Manama.
At least 89 people have been killed since the protests began, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
Authorities arrested hundreds of activists, mostly Shias, in the wake of the 2011 uprising. Dozens have have been sentenced to jail terms.
Rights groups have denounced the arrests and trials in Bahrain.
Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet, a crucial naval hub that oversees aircraft carriers and other warships patrolling the strategic Gulf sea lanes.
Washington views Bahrain of “great strategic importance”, but has withheld some military assistance as part of an effort to urge Manama “to lift restrictions on civil society” and “engage in a deliberate reform process”, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on Wednesday.
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