STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep,

We're going to catch up, now, on another dramatic day in the Arab world. It began very early this morning in Bahrain, a tiny island nation and U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf. Before dawn, riot police charged into a main square of the capital that had been occupied by protesters. Police pushed through a makeshift encampment. They were armed with clubs and with shotguns. Four people were reported killed as the police took over, dozens more were seriously wounded. And we begin in Bahrain's capital at a hospital that received the wounded and dead, where we earlier found NPR's Peter Kenyon.

PETER KENYON: I have to say, I've just seen one of the more gruesome sites in 10 years of covering the Middle East. I was in the mortuary, I saw a man lying on a gurney, the top of his head was literally blown off.

The injuries have been widespread - clubbing and some shot and rubber-bullet injuries - and paramedics who were trying to get to the scene told me they were pulled from their ambulances and dragged to the ground and beaten. It's - it's been a scene, kind of. It's a bit quiet at the moment, I have to say, but just moments ago, this compound in the hospital was filled with screaming people. The grief is turning to anger very rapidly here.

INSKEEP: And the situation is changing very rapidly. I recall, Peter, just yesterday, you were telling us how the protesters had occupied the square and the police were nowhere to be seen, at least not in the areas where the protesters were. That seems to have changed very, very quickly.

KENYON: It was a dramatic change and a bit hard to understand at the moment, I have to say. I mean, only Tuesday, the king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, had said he was sorry for the deaths that had happened earlier - the two people who were killed. And he had vowed that there would be peaceful responses to peaceful protests.

The crowds had swelled, over 36 hours, in Pearl Circle there, which is what they had hoped would be their Tahrir Square. Many people had camped out for the night, mostly, I should say, young men, but also some families - women and children there in family tents. I would say a percentage of the people go home after midnight, to their own homes to sleep, but there is a core that stays there every night, and they bore the brunt of this attack. They said it started about 3 AM, with tear gas being fired from above where there's a bridge that overlooks the square. And then the police moved in, clubbing people out of their tents, according to witnesses - and then the wounded and the damage ensued.

INSKEEP: Well, as best you could determine, who ended up in possession of the square?

KENYON: Well, the police and the military are in charge of the square. There was a military convoy that moved in. It sealed off the square, and access to that area is now sealed off by police - armed police. In fact, the man whose body I saw, I spoke with his son and he said they were trying to walk back into the square to help the wounded when the man was killed.

INSKEEP: NPR's Peter Kenyon is in Bahrain where police cracked down on protestors, earlier today. Peter, thanks very much.

KENYON: You're welcome, Steve.

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