Manama gripped by pro- and anti-regime protests
MANAMA - Large crowds of pro-government Bahrainis rallied Wednesday in Manama, shortly after anti-regime protesters staged a big gathering, on the 17th day of protests rocking the Gulf kingdom.
Supporters of the Sunni ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty gathered outside Al-Fateh mosque in Manama, waving Bahraini flags and pledging support to King Hamad. State television put their number at 300,000 demonstrators, a figure that could not be independently verified.
Earlier, thousands of anti-regime protesters massed outside the interior ministry, in the largest anti-government protest this week.
Protesters of all ages then marched to Pearl Square, the epicentre of a sit-in demanding that the ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty step down, chanting: "Down, down Al-Khalifa" and "No dialogue with the killers."
Seven protesters were shot dead by security forces in protests last month, four in a deadly police raid in the early hours of February 17 on demonstrators camped in the square, which has since been dubbed "Martyrs’ Roundabout."
Carrying banners that read "230 years enough -- Al-Khalifa leave" and "No dialogue," thousands of demonstrators in two gender-segregated processions stopped at a makeshift shrine along the King Faisal Highway dedicated to Abdulrida Buhamid, who was killed on February 17 by police gunfire.
"How can we expect security when the army shoots and kills the innocent?" demanded one woman who stopped to pray at the shrine.
The wave of popular rallies in the tiny Gulf kingdom has brought to the surface simmering discontent among Bahrain’s Shiites, who are calling for the fall of the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty which has ruled the majority Shiite country for 200 years.
A mass rally outside the government headquarters in Manama is scheduled for Friday.