Police in Bahrain said Saturday they arrested 29 people suspected of involvement in acts of violence during a protest in the capital of the Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority Gulf state.
During Friday’s demonstration in a Manama shopping centre, “rioters threw Molotov cocktails, iron bars and stones” at police and shoppers, the capital’s police chief said in a statement received by AFP.
Witnesses said dozens of people joined the pro-democracy protest, which was called by the February 14 Youth radical opposition coalition.
Demonstrators chanted: “The people want the fall of the regime,” the slogan of last year’s Arab Spring uprisings that prompted Shiite-led protests in Bahrain in February-March 2011 that were crushed in a bloody military crackdown.
Demonstrators also shouted: “”Down Hamad,” in reference to the king, the witnesses said and demanded the resignation of his uncle Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, who has served as prime minister ever since 1971, the year Bahrain declared independence from British rule.
Anti-riot police responded with tear gas and stun grenades, and fired birdshot to disperse the crowd, wounding several protesters, the witnesses said.
There have been sporadic pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain since last year’s crackdown but most have been in Shiite villages outside the capital.
The small but strategic island kingdom just across the Gulf from Shiite Iran is home base for the US Fifth Fleet. It saw Shiite-led protests in the 1990s that led to limited reforms which fell far short of opposition demands for a full-blown constitutional monarchy.