Entries in Bahrain (24)


Violence Flares as Bahrain Revs for Formula One Race

Vladimir Rys Photography via Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Opposition activists in Bahrain have called for “days of rage” ahead of Sunday’s Formula One race.

As the Bahrain Grand Prix approaches, protesters calling for political reforms have taken to the streets in bigger numbers, trying to once again direct the world’s attention to their bloody uprising against the ruling monarchy.

On Wednesday, hundreds of demonstrators were met with stun grenades and tear gas. Opposition group Al Wefaq posted photos of protesters sprayed with what they said was birdshot.

The Interior Ministry said they arrested “rioters in the act of sabotage.” The ministry denied Al Wefaq’s request for a Thursday rally, tweeting that “participation in the event is illegal.”

The Formula One world has been fiercely debating whether Bahrain is safe enough to hold the race. It was cancelled last year due to the mostly Shiite uprising against the Sunni ruling family that began last January at the start of the “Arab Spring” and has since left around 50 dead.

Last weekend Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone called Bahrain “quiet and peaceful” and race organizers have insisted the country is safe for drivers and their teams.

On Wednesday night, members of the Force India team on their way back to the team’s hotel found themselves in the middle of a protest with demonstrators hurling Molotov Cocktails. No was injured, but the team was reportedly shaken and one team member has gone home.

Held since 2004, the race is a point of pride for Bahrain. The crown prince said this year’s edition “would be a success for all of Bahrain and its people.”

Amnesty International published a report last week accusing the authorities of “trying to portray the country as being on the road to reform, but we continue to receive reports of torture and use of unnecessary and excessive force against protests.”

The tiny island kingdom ruled by the Khalifa family is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and has been the headquarters of American naval operations in the Persian Gulf since 1948.

Opposition activists accuse the security forces of rounding up scores of fellow activists ahead of the race to keep the peace. Along with political reforms, protesters have been calling for the release of human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, arrested last April and now more than 70 days into a hunger strike. An anonymous Bahraini reporter told the BBC in Bahrain that if Khawaja dies, “the streets will explode.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Human Rights Officer Threatened in Bahrain

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department confirms that an American human rights diplomat in Bahrain, Ludovic Hood, was the subject of threats in recent weeks, but denied reports that he had been recalled as a result.
“He did just complete his tour in Manama and returned to Washington. He's taken up a position here within the State Department. So he wasn't recalled and his posting -- as you know, our assignment cycle has already been set for like the last six months or so,” says State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
“That said, we are aware, as press reports have cited, that there were threats, accusations made against him on some websites. And obviously we take the safety of our diplomatic personnel very seriously, but in this case, he was simply transferred back to Washington,” Toner added. “He was not brought back here because of these -- of these accusations or allegations…he was not brought back early.”

Hood reportedly had been the subject of ethnic slurs and threats in official media reports saying his return was due to concerns over his safety. According to human rights groups, Bahrain’s security forces were accused of a brutal crackdown on protestors during this year’s uprising.
By chance, Bahrain’s foreign minister met with Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.
“I can't specifically say whether that's going to be raised” during the meeting, Toner said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bahrain's Crown Prince to Miss Royal Wedding

KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa has declined an invitation to the royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton, citing the events resulting from the recent unrest in the Kingdom of Bahrain as the reason he won’t be able to make it.

According to a statement from the Court of the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Prince Salman sent a letter to the Prince of Wales saying that it was with "deep regret" that he reached the decision that he would not be attending the wedding, which takes place on Friday. The Crown Prince said he had hoped that the ongoing events in the kingdom would have improved so that he would have been able to attend the wedding without being overshadowed Bahrain’s issues, however this has not happened.

Prince Salman ended the letter by wishing "Prince William and Miss Middleton all good wishes for Friday and every possible happiness for the future ahead."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Calls for More Restraint from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Arguing against the violent crackdown of protesters in Bahrain, President Obama called the leaders of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia Wednesday and urged them to show "maximum restraint."

However, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also publicly condemned the violence, there seems little the U.S. can do to influence Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who has accepted help from Arab allies to preserve his constitutional monarchy.

The majority Shiite population has risen up lately to demand democratic reforms and the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Refusing to back down, the government has shown little tolerance for protesters, going as far as targeting Shiite areas of the capital of Manama, which has been described lately as a "ghost town."

There have been accusations that army forces have even cut off power to hospitals treating the wounded.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia insist the action against opposition forces is necessary to quell the rising influence of Iran in the region.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bahrain Violence Escalates After Military Crackdown

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- The Sunni King of Bahrain ordered a military crackdown on Shi'ite protestors who recently retook the main square in the capital of Manama. The violent raid comes a day after the King declared a 3 month state of emergency that gave the military more authority to put down the month-long demonstrations.   

Soldiers and riot police launched an early morning assault on protestors camped out in Pearl Square. Witnesses say they covered the area in a blanket of tear gas and fired live ammunition on the crowd and into the air, driving everyone out.  Makeshift tents were reportedly lit on fire and at least six protestors were killed. The last one, medical officials say, died of gunshot wounds to his back. Two policeman also died and there are reports that at least 300 hundred have been wounded, the injured protestors streaming into the main hospital in Bahrain's capital.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Authorizes Voluntary Departure of Military Dependents in Bahrain

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The deteriorating security situation in Bahrain has led the Pentagon to authorize the voluntary departure of military dependents and non-Department of Defense (DOD) civilians based at the U.S. Naval base in Bahrain. The base is the home of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which conducts operations in the Middle East.

Bahrain’s king imposed martial law Tuesday after deadly clashes between government forces and Shiite protesters seeking reforms from the Sunni monarchy.  Two protesters were killed in Tuesday’s violence and there are reports of as many as 200 needing medical treatment.

The departure of military dependents is voluntary, which means they will decide whether they want to leave Bahrain or not. If a military plane is headed back to the United States, it could conceivably be used to bring back the family members, but no specific military aircraft will be sent to Bahrain for their departures.  Instead, those wishing to leave Bahrain can get reimbursed for buying airline tickets back to the U.S.

Sixty-one hundred Americans work at the base in Bahrain -- 4,200 of them are military and non-DOD civilians.  The authorization would apply to the approximately 700 military dependents living in Bahrain and an undetermined number of non-DOD civilians.

A statement from the U.S. Fifth Fleet said the voluntary departure was in line with a similar announcement earlier in the day from the State Department authorizing the voluntary departure of non-essential U.S. Embassy staff and dependents.

According to the statement, “The welfare of our personnel and their families is of the utmost importance.  This Authorized Departure is being ordered to allow family members who have concerns about their safety to depart without incurring an undue burden.  We remain committed to our long-standing partnership with Bahrain.”

There was a mandatory departure of 900 military dependents in 2004 because of terrorism threats.  Military dependents were only allowed to return to live in Bahrain just a few years ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Three-Month State of Emergency Declared In Bahrain

JAMES LAWLER DUGGAN/AFP/Getty Images(MANAMA, Bahrain) -- A three-month state of emergency was declared by Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah on Tuesday, authorizing the head of the military to "to take necessary steps to restore national security." It is the latest escalation in the tense and often violent month-long standoff between Shiite Muslim protesters and the security forces of the ruling Sunni family.

The declaration of martial law comes a day after a taskforce of around 1,500 troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council arrived in Bahrain to bolster the tiny island nation's forces. Most are from Saudi Arabia, crossing the short causeway that connects the two kingdoms.

The presence of foreign troops has infuriated the demonstrators who marched Tuesday from their symbolic home base of Pearl Square towards the Saudi embassy.

There are concerns that Bahrain's unrest could develop into a proxy war between Iran and its Sunni Arab neighbors. Iran has been accused of backing the protesters but so far no evidence has been offered.

What began as protests by the Shiite minority for more rights and a constitutional monarchy has developed into calls for the monarchy to be abolished. Bahrain is a key ally for the U.S., the home of the Navy's 5th Fleet. During a recent visit, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged the king to undertake real reforms, not "baby steps."

The U.S. State Department is urging Americans to avoid travel to Bahrain and suggesting those there to leave. The embassy in the capital Manama has authorized the departure of non-essential personnel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Issues Travel Warning About Violence in Bahrain

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the security situation in Bahrain deteriorates and the potential for violence increases with the arrival of security forces from other Gulf countries, the U.S. State Department is now urging Americans not to travel to Bahrain and suggests those already there should leave the country.

The agency also announced Monday that it has authorized the departure of family members of U.S. Embassy staff who wish to leave Bahrain.

Although the department says "there is no indication that U.S. citizens are being threatened or targeted," it urges Americans in Bahrain to stay alert and to avoid all demonstrations.  The agency says "spontaneous demonstrations and violence can be expected throughout the country."

Violence between police and protesters has escalated in Bahrain since demonstrations began last month, with clashes leaving several dead and wounded.  Protesters in the country are demanding jobs, the release of political prisoners, broad constitutional reforms and an end to the monarchy that has ruled Bahrain for 200 years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Denounces Violence in Yemen and Bahrain

GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images(SANA'A, Yemen) -- The White House released a statement Sunday condemning violence against peaceful protesters in Yemen and Bahrain.

Officials released tear gas on protesters in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a Saturday and Sunday, injuring dozens -- possibly hundreds -- of people. The demonstrators were calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

Saleh has been an important U.S. ally in the fight against the terrorist organization al Qaeda, although his increasingly desperate and brutal reaction to unrest since January has raised international worry.

Sunday's statement from the White House requested that the governments of Yemen and Bahrain "show restraint" and "respect the universal rights of their people."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Investigating Claims that Bahrain Used Force Against Protesters

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. has launched an investigation into reports that Bahrain used force against protesters during the country’s recent uprising.

A letter from the State Department to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says the U.S. is “investigating the actions of the Bahraini police and Ministry of Interior forces and assessing their conduct in connection with the protests.” Based on the findings of the investigation, it will be determined whether U.S. aid could be stopped for units found to have targeted peaceful protesters.

The Bahraini government is reportedly looking into the actions of security forces during the events of Feb. 14-18, a step the U.S. views as a positive one towards finding out if anyone is to be held accountable for the use of excessive force. The letter, written by acting Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Miguel Rodriguez, says there are conflicting reports about the military’s role in response to protests and officials are hoping the facts can soon be established.

The State Department’s letter was in response to an inquiry by Leahy about whether any Bahraini security forces who were trained by the U.S. had attacked protesters or used weapons provided by the U.S. against protesters. Leahy is concerned about possible violations of the Leahy Amendment, which prohibits the U.S. from providing training and aid to military forces who have committed human rights abuse.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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