Bahraini forces backed by
helicopters launched a crackdown on protesters on, imposing a curfew and
clearing hundreds from a camp that had become the symbol of an uprising by the
Shi’ite Muslim majority.
Hospital sources said three
policemen and three protesters were killed in the assault that began a day
after Bahrain declared martial law to quell sectarian unrest that has sucked in
troops from fellow Sunni-ruled neighbour Saudi Arabia.
A member of parliament from the largest
Shi’ite Muslim opposition group denounced the government assault as a
declaration of war on the Shi’ite community.
“This is war of annihilation.
This does not happen even in wars and this is not acceptable,” Abdel Jalil
Khalil, the head of Wefaq’s 18-member parliament bloc, said. “I saw them
fire live rounds, in front of my own eyes.”
Over 60 per cent of Bahrainis are
Shi’ites and they complain of discrimination at the hands of the Sunni royal
family, the al-Khalifa.
Most Shi’ites want a constitutional monarchy
but calls by some hardliners for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed the
Sunni minority, which fears that unrest could serve non-Arab Shi’ite power
Gulf Arab ruling families are Sunni
and analysts say the intervention of their forces in Bahrain might provoke a
response from Iran, which supports Shi’ite groups in Iraq and Lebanon.
Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad condemned Bahrain’s crackdown. “Today, we witness the degree
of pressure imposed on the majority of people in Bahrain,” he said
according to state TV.
“What has happened is bad,
unjustifiable and irreparable.”
Bahrain has been gripped by its
worst unrest since the 1990s after protesters took to the streets last month,
inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.
The Al Khalifa family has ruled
Bahrain for 200 years.