By Sean Carberry Before seven in the morning, five tan-colored Apache helicopters began to circle overhead. Soon afterward, people started making their way towards the Pearl Roundabout in central Manama. Some watched from a distance from protester-manned checkpoints along the road. A little before eight this morning, the sound of gunfire cut through the drone of the helicopters. From the women's exercise room in the hotel, a group of journalists and I could see tear gas canisters being fired into the roundabout. Huge plumes of white smoke rose and swept southward with the strong wind. Troops moved in, and protesters pulled back, some setting small fires at the checkpoints. After a while, a large group of riot police gathered in a sand lot near the square. Clad in dark blue uniforms and white helmets, and accompanied by armored vehicles, they marched down the road. At each intersection, they stopped and fired tear gas into the adjacent neighborhoods. Protesters retreated. The helicopters continued to circle, and periodically more shots rang out. They could have been live rounds, or just blanks to scare away protesters. After the "physical cleansing of the area," as the government called it, the war of narratives began. Bahrain's government released statements saying they had cleared the area without inflicting any casualties. They claimed that two policemen had been run over and killed by fleeing protesters. They said that as police approached the roundabout, they were fired on and attacked with Molotov cocktails. On the other side, protesters and doctors phoned journalists to say that Salmaniya Hospital, the largest in the city, had been surrounded by police who were not letting patients in. There were also stories of police preventing volunteers from taking wounded people from the roundabout. Protesters reported three deaths from the operation. At least one was allegedly killed by live ammunition. Like much of what has taken place here in recent days, anything out of eyesight is subject to scrutiny. Each incident has competing narratives, and facts are few and far between. I have heard many stories that sound plausible, but it's been difficult to verify facts. But, one fact is that protesters say they will not relent, and they will return to the Pearl Roundabout.
  • 16 March 2011. Manama Bahrain. 5 helicopters arrived at 6.30 am and commenced the military operation to retake Pearl Square and bring the city under control in what is now a state of emergency. Riot police can be seen with tanks advancing to neighborhoods, while smoke billows from pearl square area and beyond. Flaming roadblocks citizens set up were deserted as riot police arrived.


    susan schulman

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