NPR logo Bahrain Declares State Of Emergency; Protesters Clash With Foreign Forces

International

Bahrain Declares State Of Emergency; Protesters Clash With Foreign Forces

Anti-government protesters gather outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Manama. Bahrain's king Hamad declared a three-month state of emergency as Iran strongly condemned a military intervention by Gulf troops to help put down Shiite-led unrest in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. James Lawler Duggan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
James Lawler Duggan/AFP/Getty Images

Anti-government protesters gather outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Manama. Bahrain's king Hamad declared a three-month state of emergency as Iran strongly condemned a military intervention by Gulf troops to help put down Shiite-led unrest in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

James Lawler Duggan/AFP/Getty Images

A day after neighboring Gulf states sent armed forces into Bahrain, the country's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has declared a three-month state of emergency.

The BBC reports, that the king has authorized the forces to "take all measures to 'protect the safety of the country and its citizens,' the emergency law announcement said."

The Guardian reports that at least two people are dead after protesters clashed with the nearly 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. It adds:

Demonstrators and security forces faced off from mid-morning in the Sitra area on the outskirts of Manama. Bystanders reported the sound of gunfire and the scent of teargas by early afternoon, followed by the familiar cacophony of ambulance sirens as they sped casualties towards the city's two main hospitals.

By late afternoon, there were numerous reports of clashes inside Shia villages throughout Manama that had led to dozens of injuries.

Reuters reports that "thousands" protested against the Saudi troops. They marched from the Pearl roundabout, which has been the center of the anti-government movement, to the Saudi embassy:

"People are angry. We want this occupation to end. We don't want anybody to help the al-Khalifa or us," said a protester who gave his name as Salman, referring to the ruling family.

"We're not going to attack the embassy, but if they attack we will defend ourselves."

Over 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shi'ites who complain of discrimination at the hands of the Sunni royal family. Calls for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed the Sunni minority, which fears that unrest could serve non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran.

Update at 4:43 p.m. ET: NPR's Frank Langfitt spent some time in Bahrain's Salmaniya Medical Complex. He found an emergency room full of injured protesters.

Yousif Sharaf, a surgeon, said the protesters were shot with live ammunition.

"We have two dead now and hundreds of injured patients," he said. Some of them, he added, were shot from short distances, less than 20 feet he said.

Frank reports that recently the violence has taken a sectarian turn. At heart of this conflict is that Bahrain is country with a Shia majority, but the king is Sunni and they often complain that the government treats Sunnis preferentially. In recent days, reports Frank, most of the injured have been Shia.

In fact, today, as we reported earlier, thousands marched in protest to the Saudi Arabian embassy. Saudi Arabia, which sent troops to the country yesterday, is also ruled by Sunnis.

Update at 2:29 p.m. ET: Speaking in Cairo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for calm and restraint in Bahrain. Reuters reports Clinton said all sides should work toward a political solution. She said that she told the Saudi foreign minister the country must "promote dialogue between parties in Bahrain."

Update at 1:24 p.m. ET: Al-Jazeera just posted this report from a hospital in the capital city of Manama:

YouTube

Update at 1:05 p.m. ET: The New York Times reports that a 24-year-old man was rushed to a hospital with a gaping wound in his head. The hospital was at Sitrah, a suburb of Manama, which the paper describes as a stronghold for the opposition. Video of that man being carried into the hospital has emerged on YouTube. We've linked to it, but please be advised it's gruesome.

Update at 1:02 p.m. ET: An update from Reuters about British reaction. They quote Foreign Secretary William Hague:

"We're extremely concerned about the escalation of the situation in Bahrain, in particular the decision by the government of Bahrain to declare a state of emergency. We call on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid violence," Hague told parliament.

Update at 12:35 p.m. ET: The Los Angeles Times reports that Bahrain has recalled its ambassador to Iran. This comes hours after Iranian foreign minister Ramin Mehmanparast said the presence of foreign forces in Bahrain was "unacceptable."

The Times reports that in explaining the recall, Bahrain said the comments by Mehmanparast were "blatant interference."