Saudi troops intervene in Bahrain, reports say

March 14, 2011 - 0:0

MANAMA – There are reports that Saudi Arabian troops have entered Bahrain to help put down the worst unrest in the country since the 1990s, BBC Arabic said on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, thousands of anti-Khalifa-regime protesters cut off Bahrain’s financial center and drove back police trying to push them from the capital’s central square -- shaking the tiny island kingdom with the most disruptive demonstrations since the calls for more freedom began a month ago.
Demonstrators also took on King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s security forces and his supporters on the campus of the country’s main university.
Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators and surrounded the protesters’ main camp in Manama, AP reported.
However, the authorities failed to dislodge the thousands of protesters blocking King Faisal Highway in Manama, who were demanding a greater political voice in the strategic Persian Gulf kingdom, the home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
About two miles (three kilometers) away, police moved on the Pearl Square protest camp in the largest effort to clear the area since the demonstrations, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, started in mid-February. That police push, too, was unsuccessful.
Another protest at a university also descended into violence Sunday with security forces and Khalifa regime supporters clashing with students.
Elsewhere in the strategically important kingdom, riot police fired tear gas at protesters to break up the blockade of a highway, the government said.
A video posted by an opposition party showed police appearing to fire two tear gas canisters at a man standing only a few feet from them. He doubles over after the first shot, and drops to the ground after the second, which appears to hit him in the face, CNN reported.
The man is not obviously threatening the police in the video, which was posted Sunday by Wefaq. The opposition party told CNN it was filmed Sunday near Pearl Square.
About 150 supporters of the royal family tried to get onto Bahrain University campus during the protest there, but only some managed to get in. An unknown number of people were injured, but it's not clear how many or how badly.
Security forces tried to prevent the regime supporters from entering the campus, and allowed people to leave the grounds but not to enter.
According to AFP, police also fired tear gas at the protesters in Pearl Square for the first time since an anti-regime sit-in began there last month.
One protester showed a round red mark on his chest, which he said was a tear gas canister fired directly onto him. Others showed Reuters rubber bullets they said were fired by police.
Police also fired tear gas from a bridge overlooking Pearl Square but pulled back shortly afterwards, witnesses said.
Protesters pushed their cause a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited and urged Bahrain and other Arab governments facing popular uprisings to move quickly toward democratic reforms.
The protesters in Bahrain are demanding greater political freedoms and want the Khalifa dynasty to give up its monopoly on power in the Persian Gulf nation.
Bahrain has tried hard to position itself as an attractive investment destination and Middle East banking center. Even the passport stamps issued to incoming visitors declare the kingdom as “Business-friendly Bahrain.”
Mohammed Al Maskati, the president of the Bahraini Youth Society for Human Rights, who was participating in the protests, told Al Jazeera that police used batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets despite being told it was a peaceful protest.
Al-Maskati said police continued to fire tear gas on people who came to help the protesters following the initial crackdown.