Just days after a state of emergency was lifted in Bahrain, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters marching in Manama, the country’s capital, according to eyewitness reports.
There were no immediate reports of injuries among the protesters, who were marching Friday towards Pearl Square in the tiny Gulf island nation, The Associated Press says.
The demonstration in Manama comes two days after authorities lifted martial law, which had been imposed after tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in March, inspired by the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt. The Bahraini protesters have asked for greater rights and freedoms from the country's Sunni monarchy, which they say discriminates against the Shiite majority.
Saudi and United Arab Emirates troops were brought in mid-March to help quell protests, and this was followed by a prolonged government crackdown. The country’s king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, has called for a national dialogue aimed at reconciliation, but also made it clear that public protests would not be tolerated.
On Wednesday, just hours after martial law was lifted, protesters marched in villages north of the capital but were attacked by security forces, Al-Jazeera reports.
And on Thursday, police fired tear gas at a crowd of about 100 people that had gathered to mourn a female opposition activist.
Soldiers were withdrawn from Manama after the end of emergency rule, but have been replaced by large numbers of police officers. Pearl Square in downtown Manama had been the epicenter of weeks of protests.
At least 30 people have died since February when protests erupted in Bahrain, an important strategic ally of the United States and host to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.