BEIRUT

Middle East

Protesters hurt as Bahrain police disperse demo

DUBAI: Bahraini police forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse a Shiite-led protest in the capital, wounding several people, activists said on Friday.

The Sunni-ruled kingdom's interior ministry said in a statement published by state news agency BNA that security forces "had to disperse" a group taking part in an "illegal demonstration" after they were given several warnings to end their rally.

"Hundreds of people tried to protest in Manama" late on Thursday but were met by "tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets," said Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.

A video posted by activists on Youtube showed dozens chanting slogans demanding that foreign Sunnis who have been given citizenship by the monarchy leave the country.

Shiite protesters allege the authorities have "naturalized" many foreign-born Sunnis in order to tip the demographic balance against the majority Shiites.

An activist identified as Nader Abdelimam was hospitalized after a stun grenade exploded in his face, Maskati said, adding that less serious injuries were treated in homes to avoid arrests of the wounded at hospitals.

BNA did not report any casualties.

Police blocked the roads leading to Manama to prevent residents of the nearby Shiite villages from joining the demonstration, Maskati told AFP.

Sporadic Shiite-led demonstrations have continued months after mass protests, which rocked Bahrain earlier this year, were violently crushed by government forces using live ammunition.

On December 31, Bahraini police fired tear gas grenades on protesters, killing a Shiite a teenager.

A special commission that probed last year's crackdown denounced in a November report, the "excessive and unjustified use of force" by the authorities.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) said 35 people were killed in the unrest, including five security personnel, and five detainees who were tortured to death while in custody. Hundreds were also injured.

Bahrain's majority Shiites have complained of marginalization in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, saying they are denied jobs in the security services.

 

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