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MANAMA: Police in Bahrain fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing anti-government protesters marching in the old market area of central Manama yesetrday, witnesses said.
About 10 people were arrested, they said.
Thousands took part in a second march along a stretch of highway outside the capital Manama, which passed without incident, witnesses said. This one was permitted by the authorities, unlike the march in central Manama.
The main opposition bloc Al Wefaq organised the larger march, under the slogan “Stop the shedding of our blood, we will not give up our demands”.
Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been volatile since its Shia majority began protests last year and were stopped by its Sunni Muslim rulers, using martial law and help from Gulf neighbours.
Shias complain of discrimination in the electoral system, jobs, housing, education and by government departments, including the police and army. They say government assertions that it is addressing those concerns have produced no action.
A commission of international legal experts reported in November that torture had been systematically used on protesters to punish and extract hundreds of confessions. Among its many recommendations were reviewing activists’ jail sentences.
Bahraini authorities accuse regional Shia power Iran of encouraging the unrest and have vowed a tough response to violent protests as talks with the opposition have stalled.