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Thursday, February 24, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Reports: Saudis helped control Bahrain streets

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia is said to have sent troops and combat platforms to quell Shi'ite protests in neighboring Bahrain.


Opposition sources and witnesses said they determined the presence of Saudi nationals in the Bahrain security forces. They said the Sunni regime of King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa employed scores of Saudi soldiers as well as equipment in an effort to quell Shi'ite protests.

"We could detect them through their accents and behavior, and they are clearly not locals," an opposition source said.

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At one point, the sources said, the Saudis were given command of anti-riot and security units in Manama. They said the Saudis were believed to have entered Bahrain in early February and were accompanied by U.S.-origin armored personnel carriers and main battle tanks.

The U.S. embassy in Manama has not confirmed the reports of the use of American weapons in the crackdown of the Shi'ite unrest. But the sources said Hamad was believed to have been warned by the State Department to remove all military units from Manama as well as U.S. weapons and combat platforms.

Saudi Arabia was said to be the strongest ally of Bahrain. The Saudi leadership has warned the Shi'ite opposition in Bahrain to end its protests and instead engage in a dialogue with the government in Manama.

"The Saudis see Bahrain as part of their sphere of influence," the source said. "They are ready to openly fight in the streets here."

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