x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Bomb hits Bahrain police bus as protesters mark anniversary

Violence in Shiite villages around Manama as protesters mark mass demonstrations of 2011.

MANAMA // A bomb struck a bus carrying Bahrain police yesterday as anti-government protesters clashed with police on the third anniversary of mass demonstrations.

The interior ministry said on Twitter feed that the explosion happened in the mainly Shiite village of Daih.

A ministry official near the scene of the blast said three police officers were injured.

Recent efforts by the government to revive reconciliation talks with opposition leaders have failed to stop protests that have continued since February 14, 2011.

Protesters have frequently clashed with police in the mainly Shiite villages just beyond the capital.

Hundreds of youths attempted yesterday to get to Pearl Square in the capital, which was a protest hub. The square was cleared by police raids and later razed in the early weeks of the unrest and is now sealed off by security forces.

Some of the youths marching yesterday carried Bahraini flags, while others were masked and held unlit Molotov cocktails or metal rods. Police used tear gas to prevent them from getting near the former protest grounds.

Twenty-nine people were arrested on Thursday over “rioting and vandalism” in villages outside Manama, the interior ministry said.

Protesters blocked roads to villages outside the capital with debris and smeared oil on the pavement to try to prevent security forces from entering. A car was burnt by protesters and a school bus carrying children was attacked by “Molotov-throwing thugs”, the ministry said.

Opposition groups dominated by the country’s majority Shiites began protesting in 2011 to seek greater political rights. At least 65 people have died in the unrest.

Repeated rounds of political talks have failed to significantly close the rifts between the two sides and the opposition is demanding amnesty for what they claim are more than 3,000 political prisoners held in Bahraini prisons.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met top opposition leaders last month to once again revive the talks.

“The government is serious about dialogue and hope all others are also serious,” the government spokeswoman Sameera Rajab said.

* Associated Press