DUBAI/MANAMA: Bahraini riot police fired tear gas to disperse an unauthorized demonstration attended by hundreds of protesters in Manama Friday, witnesses said.
The protest, called by the main Shiite opposition bloc Al-Wefaq, chanted anti-regime slogans, including “Down Hamad” – in reference to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
Riot police arrested several people after dispersing the demonstration using tear gas, according to witnesses.
More than 55 people have died in nearly two years of tensions between the Sunni-led government and the kingdom’s majority Shiites seeking a greater political voice.
Thursday, police fired tear gas and stun grenades at anti-government protesters near Sitra, south of Manama. The demonstrators there were chanting to reject proposed talks aimed at easing unrest in the Gulf nation.
The Interior Ministry said Wednesday it would not authorize any protests called for by Al-Wefaq and that authorities would use force to “maintain security.”
“Calls for unauthorized demonstrations show a lack of credibility from certain parties ... in restarting dialogue for national reconciliation,” government spokeswoman Samira Rajab said Friday.
The king had called during the week for a new round of national dialogue, previously shunned by the Shiite-led opposition. Last month Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa also called for a dialogue.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 26, 2013, on page 12.