ABU DHABI ø Shi'ite attacks against foreigners are now targeting playboys from neighboring Arab states who come to Bahrain for the more readily available alcohol.
Western diplomatic sources said last week's street violence appears to have shifted its focus from Westerners
to Gulf Arab nationals who use Bahrain as the
watering hole of the region. The kingdom is the only Gulf state that approves
the public sale and consumption of alcohol, banned by Islam.
Most of the patrons in the La Terrasse restaurant, one of the targets of last week's rampage, were Gulf Arabs,
particularly Saudi nationals. Two cars owned by Saudi nationals were
The diplomatic sources said the Shi'ite vigilante campaign appears to be
supported by members of Bahrain's parliament, dominated by fundamentalists.
Many parliamentarians have called for a ban on alcohol and the expulsion of
the U.S. military presence in the kingdom.
Bahraini police and security forces have
been unable to quell Shi'ite attacks against foreigners, including those
from other Gulf Cooperation Council states, Middle East Newsline reported.
The diplomatic sources said police have
often seemed unwilling to respond to complaints of attacks by Shi'ites
against Westerners or other GCC nationals said to have been in violation of
Last Wednesday, Arab and Western expatriates came under attack by Shi'ite
militants in the capital Manama. Shi'ites torched cars and
attacked patrons in a restaurant in what was termed a campaign against the
sale of alcohol in the kingdom.
Scores of Shi'ites, armed with knives and batons, attacked customers,
looted and vandalized restaurants and torched cars. At least three people
were injured and several of the attackers were arrested.
The rampage began with attacks on suspected Asian alcohol dealers in
Manama. Shi'ite rioters, who sought to break bottles of alcohol, clashed
with Bahraini security forces throughout the night as the
violence spread toward the affluent suburbs.
"I doubt that I will continue to operate in Bahrain after what
happened," J.J. Bakhtiar, the co-owner of La Terrasse
restaurant said. "Customers are afraid,
and I had to spend all day today convincing the
customers who had reserved places at the restaurant that it was safe for
them to come here and enjoy a meal."
This was the second Shi'ite attack in as many weeks in what was termed
an Islamic campaign against alcohol. In early March, hundreds of Shi'ite
youngsters rampaged through the Asian section of Manama, beating expatriate
laborers and destroying property. Bahrain has a Shi'ite majority that
regards itself as close to neighboring Iran, but is ruled by a Sunni royal