Security Forces in Bahrain Fire on Mourners and Journalists
MANAMA, Bahrain — Government forces opened fire on hundreds of mourners marching toward Pearl Square Friday, sending people running away in panic amid the boom of concussion grenades. But even as the people fled, at least one helicopter sprayed fire on them and a witness reported seeing mourners crumpling to the ground.
It was not immediately clear what type of ammunition the forces were firing, but some witnesses reported live fire from automatic weapons and the crowd was screaming “live fire, live fire.” At a nearby hospital, witnesses reported seeing people with very serious injuries and gaping wounds, at least some of them caused by rubber bullets that appeared to have been fired at close range.
Even as ambulances rushed to rescue people, forces fired on medics loading the wounded into their vehicles.
A Western official said at least one person had died in the mayhem surrounding the square, and reports said at least 50 were wounded. The official quoted a witness as saying that the shooters were from the military, not the police, indicating a hardening of the government’s stance against those trying to stage a popular revolt.
The mourners who were trying to march on symbolic Pearl Square were mostly young men who had been part of a funeral procession for a protester killed in an earlier crackdown by police.
Minutes after the first shots were fired, forces in a helicopter that had been shooting at the crowds, opened fire at a Western reporter and videographer who were filming a sequence on the latest violence.
At least seven people had died in clampdowns before Friday’s violence.
Aside from obvious concerns about Bahrain firing on its own people, Americans should pay closer attention to this for one simple reason: The Fifth Fleet is based just outside Manama.
What happens in Bahrain, regardless of the protest’s outcome, will dramatically change the United States’ outlook on the region, if it hasn’t already.