Saudi Arabia sends tanks to Bahrain

March 2, 2011 - 0:0

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday sent dozens of tanks to Bahrain, where anti-regime protests continue for about two weeks, a report said.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing “15 tank carriers carrying two tanks each heading towards Bahrain” along the 25-km King Fahd causeway, which links the small island nation of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, Egypt's Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported.
However a Saudi Arabian official denied the report that the kingdom had sent tanks to Bahrain to try to quell protests.
The official at the Saudi defense ministry said no tanks had crossed the causeway to Bahrain. The official requested anonymity, Reuters reported.
Discontent is rising in the Shia community of Bahrain, a Saudi-allied, majority Shia archipelago which has been ruled for two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty.
Inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, protesters have since February 14 been staging street protests against what they say are decades of discrimination and oppression.
Thousands march to Pearl Square
Thousands of Bahrainis took to the street Tuesday in an anti-regime protest heading to Pearl Square, the focal point of demonstrations for over two weeks.
“We are brothers, Sunnis and Shias,” chanted the demonstrators who were predominantly Shiaas they marched from the Salmaniah district of the capital, a few kilometers from the square, AFP reported.
Protesters were segregated, with men on one side and women clad in black abaya cloaks marching alongside them, an AFP reporter said.
Handicapped protesters on wheelchairs led the procession which passed through a street where police killed two anti-government demonstrators two weeks ago.
“We are in this march to stress the unity between Shias and Sunnis in Bahrain,” said Sheikh Mohammed Habib al-Muqdad, a cleric who was among 25 activists on trial for terrorism charges, who was freed last week in a royal pardon.
The unrest in the small Persian Gulf state is part of a wave of protests that have rippled across North Africa and the Middle East since the revolt that ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Protesters in the Shia-majority kingdom which is ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty have been calling for the fall of the regime.
But Shia-led opposition groups have taking a more moderate stance, demanding major reforms that would lead to establishing a “real” constitutional monarchy, as well as the resignation of the government which they hold responsible for the killing of seven protesters.
King Hamad bin Issa has entrusted his heir, Sheikh Salman with opening a wide-reaching dialogue with the opposition, an offer that is seen too late by hard core protesters.
The monarch had kick-started reforms with a referendum in 2001 that led to reviving the parliament in 2002, after it had been scrapped in 1975. But the legislature remains crippled by the authorities of the all-appointed upper chamber, and the king.
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Photo: A Bahraini woman participates in an anti-government protest march Tuesday, March 1, 2011, through the capital of Manama, Bahrain. (AP Photo