Two killed as more Bahrain protests called

MANAMA (AFP)— Two Shiite demonstrators were killed in clashes with Bahraini police, sparking calls to step up anti-government protests on Tuesday and a walkout from parliament of the main Shiite opposition bloc.

The Islamic National Accord Association which has 18 seats in the 40-member house has “suspended its membership in the Bahraini parliament” of the Shiite-majority kingdom, a member, MP Khalil al-Marzooq, told AFP by telephone.

The decision was taken because of “the deterioration in security and the negative and brutal way in which (the authorities) dealt with the protesters, killing two of them,” he said.

Fadel Salman Matrouk was shot dead in front of a hospital on Tuesday where mourners gathered for the funeral of Msheymah Ali who died of his wounds after police dispersed a protest in a village east of Manama on Monday, he said.

Marzooq said both men were “martyrs.”

The interior ministry said that “some of the people participating in the the funeral on Tuesday clashed with forces from a security patrol,” leading to Matrouk’s death.

“An investigation is under way to determine the circumstances surrounding the case,” it said.

The interior ministry also announced the death of a protester late on Monday “due to his wounds” and opened an inquiry into whether police resorted to “unjustified use of arms” in dispersing the protest in Diya village.

News of the two deaths prompted activists, who posted pictures of both men on a Facebook page, to call for a huge turnout at their funerals and to step up anti-government protests.

Witnesses told AFP that protests were held Monday in a string of Shiite-majority villages to the west, east and north of the capital as well as in the historic Balad al-Qadim quarter of Manama city centre.

Turnout at the rallies ranged from between a few dozen to hundreds of people, they said.

“There were no arrests during the the demonstrations, but the police in some cases clashed with the protesters,” a police official told AFP.

Security forces were deployed in force along the main routes into Manama in a bid to head off rallies called on the Internet, mirroring similar online initiatives around the Arab world.

The Facebook page which called for a February 14 uprising, inspired by the protests which ousted the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, had attracted more than 22,000 “likes” by Tuesday.

A message on the page read: “This is your chance to open the way for political and social reforms in line with changes taking place in the Middle East. On February 14, we will chant together: ‘The people want reform of the regime.'”

As in other Arab countries, tech-savvy Bahrainis are using the Internet to demand that the government create jobs for unemployed young people and increase wages.

Shiite-majority Bahrain is ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa family of King Hamad, which retains a tight grip on the premiership and key ministries.

In the 1990s, the Arab state which faces Iran across the Gulf waterway, was plagued by a wave of Shiite-led unrest that has abated since 2001 reforms restored parliament.

But the Shiite opposition opposes the elected house’s legislative powers being shared with an appointed upper house and accuses authorities of trying to alter the archipelago’s demographic make-up by naturalising Sunni immigrants.