INTERNATIONAL. The military said it took control of large parts of Manama, and told people not to congregate in the main public places.
Bahrain's foreign minister said pro- democracy protesters were warned before police attacked a rally in the center of Manama, the capital, killing three people.
“The country was on the brink of a sectarian abyss,” Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said today at a press conference. “So it was a very important step that had to happen. Police took every care possible.” He called the deaths “unfortunate.”
Security forces fired teargas shells and buckshot at crowds of mostly Shiite Muslim protesters who had gathered overnight at the city’s Pearl Roundabout traffic junction to call for a constitutional monarchy and a change of government. Five people have been killed since demonstrations against the Sunni ruling Al-Khalifa family began on February 14.
The dissent in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, follows the toppling of autocratic rulers by popular movements in Egypt and Tunisia and marks the spread of unrest into the Persian Gulf, where most of the Middle East’s oil is produced.
The past week has also seen anti-government protests and clashes in Libya, Africa’s biggest holder of crude oil reserves, and Yemen, a producer of liquefied natural gas.
Political risks to oil supply are "high and rising" amid unrest in the Middle East, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in a report. Oil prices rose following reports from Iranian state-run Press TV that two of the country’s warships were heading for Egypt’s Suez Canal.
Crude oil extended gains in New York, rising as much as 1.8%. Crude futures for March delivery increased US$1.18, or 1.4%, to US$86.17 a barrel at 1:22 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures rose as high as US$86.49.
The cost of insuring Bahrain’s debt through credit-default swaps climbed 17 basis points to 285, according to CMA prices. The Bloomberg GCC 200 Index of Persian Gulf shares declined for a fourth day, losing 0.2%.
Motor racing series GP2 Asia canceled a planned race at Bahrain’s international circuit this weekend after the violence, it said in a statement on its website. The same venue, in the desert south of Manama, is due to host the opening round of the Formula One season next month. GP2 is a junior series with ties to Formula One, the world’s most-watched motor racing series.
Bahrain’s mainly Shiite Al-Wefaq opposition movement said today it will resign from parliament in protest against the police crackdown. Mohamed Almizal, a senior official group, said the government should resign after using “brutal violence” against protesters. The Interior Ministry said about 50 security officers were injured after being attacked by demonstrators.
Bahrain’s Shiites, who make up about 60%-70% of the Bahraini population, claim discrimination by the country’s Sunni ruling family and its supporters.
Other countries rocked by protests include Libya, ruled by Muammar Qaddafi for more than 40 years, where demonstrators demanding the government’s overthrow clashed with security forces yesterday. The leader of the opposition Front for the Salvation of Libya, Ibrahim Sahad, said in a video on the YouTube website that today would be a day of “remembrance and uprising” and urged supporters to take part.
Libyan security forces arrested at least 14 people for trying to organize an anti-government rally today, Human Rights Watch said in a statement that urged authorities to immediately free the activists. Nineteen people have been killed in clashes in Benghazi and Al-Bida in Libya, Al Arabiya television reported today, without saying where it got the information.
Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, has been the venue for demonstrations for the past seven days against the president of 32 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has cooperated with the U.S. against al-Qaeda. Algeria, which has also seen anti-government protests, will lift a 19-year-old state of emergency this month, the official Algeria Presse Service said today.
Iran deployed security forces to suppress a February 14 rally by opposition movements to show solidarity with the Arab revolts.
Many Shiite Bahrainis retain cultural and family ties with Iran, while the country’s Sunni ruling family has links with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main regional rival and the biggest oil producer. Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has a Shiite minority in the Eastern Province, where most of its oil is produced.