State security forces in Bahrain –presumably including recently-invited Saudi Arabian troops – have attacked anti-government protesters in the capitol Manama and driven them out of the central Pearl Roundabout where they had camped out for weeks.
Al Jazeera reported that the troops were backed by tanks and helicopters that flew above the square as they stormed the protest site. The soldiers fired tear gas from all sides to disperse the crowd, who retreated, intimidated by the sheer number of security officers around them.
Subsequently, explosions were heard and smokes wafted across the sky over Manama.
Three protesters were reportedly killed, with hundreds injured. However, other reports claimed that at least three policemen were also killed.
Ali Al Aswad, a member of Bahrain’s opposition Wefaq party, told Al Jazeera that the government used helicopters to shoot at peaceful protesters. He also warned that Bahrain is facing a civil disaster.
The security forces are killing the people, we call upon United Nations to help us, Aswad said.
The offensive against demonstrators comes one day after the Bahraini royal family declared a state of emergency in the tiny country and invited a large number of troops from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations – i.e., the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) -- to establish order.
There were also reports yesterday of at least two people were killed in clashes in the Shia suburb of Sitra outside Manama.
A witness told Al Jazeera that troops were surrounding the Salmania hospital and not permitting doctors and nurses to enter.
The GCC troops are for fighting against foreign forces, instead they are targeting the people of Bahrain,” he said. “What's our fault, we are asking for our legitimate rights.
Senior Bahrain opposition MP Abdel Jalil Khalil described the crackdown as a war of annihilation, according to Reuters.
Iran has strongly condemned the presence of GCC troops in Bahrain. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran (a major Shia power), said the crackdown against Bahrain’s demonstrators was unjustifiable and irreparable, and also blamed the US
While the U.S. has not specifically commented on the deployment of foreign troops in Bahrain, it has called for a quick resolution to the ongoing crisis.
Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni royal family and Sunni political elite, but the majority of its people are Shias who have long complained about discrimination.
BBC reported that the country's health minister, himself a Shia, has resigned in protest against the state's use of force against protesters. In addition, Shia judges have reportedly resigned en masse.