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As U.S. troops arrive, riots erupt in Bahrain

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

ABU DHABI Hundreds of masked rioters went on a rampage in Bahrain's capital city Wednesday, attacking hotels frequented by Americans and cars with Saudi license plates.

Bahrain, which has a large Shi'ite minority loyal to Iran, is a close ally of Washington and home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet. U.S. troops and supplies have been pouring into the kingdom over the last few weeks.

The masked men surged through the capital of Manama, attacking women, torching vehicles and debris, and smashing hotel windows in areas usually frequented by Americans and Westerners.

Bahraini anti-riot police responded with tear gas. The security forces charged into the rioters, who rampaged along a leading avenue in the capital's downtown district.

At least 100 cars were damaged, witnesses said. Many of them bore Saudi license plates. Saudi Arabia has been accused of persecuting its large Shi'ite minority in the eastern portion of the kingdom.

Several people were injured and arrested, officials said. Authorities closed off an area of Manama to prevent the spread of the riot.

Earlier, Bahrain's new Islamic-dominated parliament warned of any U.S.-led war against Iraq. In a statement, parliament said such a war would result in "devastating consequences for the security and economies of Gulf countries and consequently world security and peace."

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