x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Saudi troops 'enter Bahrain' as protests resume

Saudi forces move into the kingdom as part of the Gulf countries' joint Peninsula Shield Force, a Saudi official says.

MANAMA // More than 1,000 Saudi troops have entered Bahrain where protests have raged for a month, a Saudi official said on Monday, as demonstrators marched into Manama's central business district.

The protesters poured into the banking hub, witnesses said, as Saudi forces appeared ready help the embattled government restore order.

The Saudi troops entered Bahrain on Sunday as part of the Gulf countries' joint Peninsula Shield Force, the Saudi official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The intervention came "after repeated calls by the (Bahraini) government for dialogue, which went unanswered" by the opposition, he said.

The Bahraini government has not confirmed the presence of Saudi troops in the archipelago. But the website of Bahrain's Alyam newspaper, which is close to the Al Khalifa royal family, said forces from the GCC were expected to enter Bahrain to help boost security. It was not immediately clear if other GCC members contributed troops to the force.

Helicopters buzzed over the Financial Harbour business complex which was blocked off by protesters, a day after more than 200 people were injured there in clashes between riot police and demonstrators, residents said.

Sunday was the worst day of violence in the kingdom since seven people were killed at the start of protests a month ago.

The Associated Press reported Bahrain's prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, did not an answer a question about the reports of outside forces offering help, saying in a Twitter message that an "official announcement" could come.

"What we are witnessing in Manama is no peaceful protest," he wrote in a Twitter post about the Shiite-led protests. "It's wanton, gangster style takeover of people's lives."

Shiites, who account for 70 per cent of the population, have long complained of discrimination by the Sunni dynasty that has ruled for more than two centuries.