Shi'ites in Bahrain resume revolt, call for new 'Day of Rage'

Friday, March 25, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

ABU DHABI The Iranian-backed Shi'ite opposition plans to resume the revolt against the Sunni kingdom in Bahrain.

The opposition intended to hold another so-called "Day of Rage" on March 25 in an effort to shatter a ban on demonstrations in Bahrain. Opposition sources said the street demonstrations would mark the resumption of mass Shi'ite protests after King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa ordered a crackdown on March 16.

"I expect there will be a lot of people protesting on Friday," said Mattar Ibrahim Mattar, spokesman for the Shi'ite parliamentary opposition bloc Al Wefaq.

Neither Al Wefaq nor the Feb. 14 Youth Movement has been identified with the renewed demonstrations. Opposition sources said many of the leaders of the two groups were arrested in the crackdown, aided by the deployment of troops from Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

"Either the government does not use force and the protests return or they use force and there may be victims," Mattar said.

Still, the diplomatic community has taken seriously the threat of renewed violent unrest in Bahrain. Western and other embassies have warned their nationals to stay away from major streets and intersections in Manama.

"The timings are not yet known but are likely to be during the afternoon," the British Foreign Office said. "Whilst we seek to ensure the information we give is as reliable as possible, we cannot confirm that all such events will go ahead as listed."

At least nine demonstrations have been called for throughout Bahrain. Shi'ites and their supporters were told on Facebook and other social media that the protesters would regain their positions lost during the regime crackdown, including Salmaniya hospital in Manama.

Officials said the Shi'ite unrest was being aided by Iran and its proxies. They said authorities have arrested suspected operatives of the Iranian-backed Hizbullah, linked to insurgency activities.

"What is happening in Bahrain has reached a very serious stage," Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said. "There is stability, but above all we fear a split between religious groups."

Authorities report the arrest of five Lebanese accused of being Hizbullah agents. The Lebanese were charged with transferring money to Bahrain to fuel the Shi'ite revolt. More than 5,000 Lebanese live in Bahrain and authorities have suspended flights from Beirut to Manama to prevent an influx of foreign Shi'ites.

"Making these flights is no longer viable," Bahrain Air, which suspended its Lebanon route until March 30, said.

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