February 2014 – BAHRAIN – A Bahraini policeman died of wounds sustained in a bomb blast during protests marking the anniversary of a crushed 2011 uprising as supporters of the main Shiite opposition bloc took to the streets on Saturday. Thousands of demonstrators were expected to join the anniversary rally called by the opposition Al-Wefaq movement to press its campaign for a constitutional monarchy in the Sunni minority-ruled Gulf kingdom. The policeman died from wounds sustained in a “terrorist explosion” in the Shiite village of Dair late on Friday, the interior ministry said. It was the second reported blast during three days of protests commemorating the month-long Arab Spring-inspired uprising which was bloodily suppressed by Saudi-backed troops three years ago. Earlier, the ministry reported another explosion in the similarly-named village of Daih, which caused minor damage to a bus transporting police personnel, pictures posted on Twitter showed. The blasts struck as protesters took to the streets in several areas of the small but strategic archipelago, which lies just across the Gulf from Iran and is home base to the US Fifth Fleet. “Some villages saw rioting, vandalism and the targeting of policemen. This required police to respond to these criminal acts through legal means,” the interior ministry said. A total of 26 people “suspected of rioting and vandalism” were arrested on Friday, the ministry said. The arrests followed 29 on Thursday.
In August last year, King Hamad ordered stiffer penalties for terrorism offences, including a minimum 10-year jail term for attempted bombing convictions. Bombings that result in casualties are punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. Six opposition groups led by the main Shiite opposition party Al-Wefaq, condemned all attacks on police “regardless of their perpetrators” and called for “a neutral commission of inquiry to investigate the reports of bombings.” They also condemned “excessive violence by security forces that left many people wounded over the past two days,” and insisted on their “commitment to peaceful means” in their campaign for a constitutional monarchy. Al-Wefaq, which has boycotted parliament since the 2011 uprising, gathered its supporters four kilometers (2.5 miles) west of Manama on Saturday afternoon for the climax of the anniversary commemorations. It urged them to show “high levels of discipline, sophistication… and civilization” during the rally. Authorities tolerate Al-Wefaq’s protests which are usually organized and peaceful, unlike those of youth activists who erect impromptu roadblocks and hurl stones and petrol bombs at police. Amnesty International on Thursday condemned Bahrain’s “relentless repression” of dissent and said it feared a violent crackdown on anniversary demonstrations. The International Federation for Human Rights says at least 89 people have been killed since the uprising broke out three years ago. In an anniversary speech on Friday, King Hamad expressed “commitment to complete reform in accordance with our circumstances, national interests, identity and values.” Two rounds of national reconciliation talks between the opposition and the government have failed to make any headway. – Yahoo News