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Tuesday, February 15, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Shi'ites using Facebook and Twitter to organize 'Day of Rage' in Bahrain

ABU DHABI — Bahrain has begun confronting what could be massive unrest the likes of which has swept through Egypt and Tunisia.


Security sources said Bahrain has placed authorities on alert for anti-government riots throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council kingdom. They said the Shi'ite-led opposition was using social media Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter to organize violent demonstrations, including one called "Day of Rage."

"They [opposition] are very well organized, both in the cities and villages," a security source said.

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On Feb. 14, clashes between police and demonstrators were reported in Bahrain, in which at least 25 people, including three officers, were injured, Middle East Newsline reported. Witnesses said police and security forces were ordered to stop opposition marches around the capital of Manama, which halted business throughout the area.

The kingdom has sought to quell the rising Shi'ite unrest. In February, King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa announced that each Bahraini family would receive the equivalent of $2,700 to help defray rising prices.

But the offer was dismissed by the opposition. Instead, opposition leaders, who threatened to leave parliament, warned authorities not to confront demonstrators.

"We urge the king to avoid the fatal mistake committed by similar regimes in Tunisia and Egypt," Nabil Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said. "This would push Bahrain into chaos and bloodshed."

The clashes continued into Feb. 15, and so far two people were reported to have been killed. In one case, security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pellets toward a funeral procession.

In 2010, Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, enhanced its police and security forces in an assessment that the Shi'ite opposition was preparing massive and violent protests. Officials have suggested that the opposition, which controls about half of parliament, was receiving aid from neighboring Iran.

On Feb. 14, Bahraini security forces employed rubber bullets and tear gas to stop Shi'ite marches. Helicopters circled above to provide data on the demonstrations.

Protest organizers said the campaign against the Sunni kingdom would continue. They did not rule out the prospect of serious unrest in neighboring GCC states.

"We would like to stress that Feb. 14 is only the beginning," the opposition said in a statement. "The road may be long and the rallies may continue for days and weeks, but if a people one day chooses life, then destiny will respond."

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