Gloves come off in Middle East

Bahraini army tanks take position near Pearl Square after riot police stormed through in a crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

Unrest spread across the Middle East and North Africa on Thursday as Bahrain launched a swift military crackdown on anti-government protesters and clashes were reported in Libya and Yemen.

Troops in armored vehicles took control of the Bahraini capital after police firing buckshot and teargas drove out protesters hoping to emulate those who toppled veteran leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.

It was the worst violence in the Gulf island kingdom in decades and a sign of the nervousness felt by Bahrain’s Saudi-allied Sunni al-Khalifa royal family, long aware of simmering discontent among the country’s majority Shi’ites.

Three people were killed, 231 were injured and opposition leaders said dozens were detained and about 60 were missing.

The army in Bahrain, a country of 1.3 million people out of whom 600,000 are native Bahrainis, issued a warning to people to stay away from the center of the capital and said it would do whatever was needed to maintain security.

The protesters want the Sunni ruling family to relinquish its control over top government posts and address grievances held by the country’s majority Shi’ites who complain of economic hardships lack of political freedom and discrimination in jobs. 


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