U.S. beefs up security for Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain

Friday, February 18, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

WASHINGTON The United States has been concerned that Shi'ite riots in Bahrain could hamper operations of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has been closely monitoring the Shi'ite unrest in Bahrain. They said security has been reinforced around the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, responsible for operations throughout the Gulf and Red Sea.

"So far, this is not about us yet," an official said.

Officials said the Defense Department and State Department have been in constant contact with the Bahraini kingdom amid the Shi'ite riots around Manama. They said the administration was urging the Sunni regime to avoid a bloody confrontation with the protesters in wake of the death of two Shi'ites.

"The United States welcomes the government of Bahrain's statements that it will investigate these deaths, and that it will take legal action against any unjustified use of force by Bahraini security forces," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Feb. 15. "We urge that it follow through on these statements as quickly as possible."

In 2010, the Fifth Fleet launched a project to expand its headquarters in Bahrain. The project included the takeover and modernization of an antiquated civilian port designed to accommodate large naval vessels.

So far, the Shi'ite opposition, which took over a square in Manama, has demanded major political reforms. But officials said the Shi'ite faction in parliament, which controls about half of the 40 seats, has constantly criticized the U.S. military presence in Bahrain.

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