Secretary of State Clinton Calls for Restraint as Bahrain Violently Surpresses Protests
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Bahrain to show restraint in dealing with anti-government protests after riot police drove demonstrators from a central square in the capital Manama in a bloody crackdown.
Clinton telephoned her Bahraini counterpart on Thursday, the State Department said.
“She expressed deep concern about recent events and urged restraint moving forward. They discussed political and economic reform efforts to respond to the citizens of Bahrain,” a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
A Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Dave Lapan, described Bahrain — home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet — as a “long-time ally” and an “important partner,” adding that it was “closely watching developments.”
Police firing teargas and buckshot moved in at around 3 a.m. local time Thursday (7 p.m. Wednesday ET), dispersing some 2,000 people, including women and children. “They are killing us!” one man said after the operation began.
The Interior Ministry declared the protest camp “illegal” and warned Bahrainis to stay off the streets.
“The security forces have stressed that they will take every strict measure and deterrent necessary to preserve security and general order,” an Interior Ministry spokesman said on Bahraini television Thursday afternoon local time.
CNBC television news, citing U.S. military sources, said there was a significant amount of blood on King Faisal Highway, in a different part of the city than Pearl Square.
It reported that authorities were confiscating camera phones from individuals suspected photographing affected areas. Activists circulated Twitter messages telling people to delete images to avoid protesters being identified.
CNBC also reported 100 demonstrators had also gathered near Salmaniya Hospital, the main state-run hospital in Manama, where many of the wounded were taken.
Outside the medical complex, dozens of protesters chanted: “The regime must go” and burned pictures of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
“We are even angrier now. They think they can clamp down on us, but they have made us angrier,” Makki Abu Taki, whose son was killed in the assault, shouted in the hospital morgue.
“We will take to the streets in larger numbers and honor our martyrs. The time for Al Khalifa has ended,” he said.
Kristof said in a series of Twitter messages that the Bahrain government had ordered ambulances to stop going out. He said 10 ambulance paramedics had been attacked by Bahrain police. “I interviewed them, saw their injuries,” he wrote.
“Nurse told me she saw handcuffed prisoner beaten by police, then executed with gun,” Kristoff added.
An ambulance driver claimed a Saudi Arabian army officer had “held gun to his head” and threatened to kill him if he helped the injured, Kristof said in a Twitter message. BBC News reported that a source close to Bahrain’s rulers had denied claims that Saudia Arabian troops were involved, but added they were ready to help if needed.
Kristoff said the hospital had seen more than 600 people injured in the protests by early Thursday morning.
‘This place is boiling’
Martin Chulov, a correspondent for the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper who is in Bahrain, said in a Twitter message that there were “amazing scenes” at the hospital with doctors “on shoulders with bull horns calling for an uprising!”
“The Drs say they are not being allowed to treat the wounded. This place is boiling,” he added in another message.
NPR’s Peter Kenyon reported Thursday that he had “just seen one of the more gruesome sights in 10 years of covering the Middle East” — the body of a man who had the “top of his head … literally blown off.” It was not clear if he was describing the man in the photograph.
Kenyon added that the “grief is turning to anger very rapidly.”
Here is Nick Kristoff’s reporting from Bahrain today.