Bahrain Police Battle Protesters Blocking Financial Harbour

Bahrain police fought with pro- democracy demonstrators seeking to block access to the nation’s financial center, leaving 100 protesters and 14 officers injured, according to hospital and government officials.

A group of protesters blocked King Faisal Highway, the main arterial road in the capital Manama, and “attacked unarmed police officers,” the government’s media office said. One officer was stabbed and another suffered a head injury, Bahrain News Agency said, citing the country’s interior ministry.

More than 100 protesters were injured when police removed tents that the demonstrators set up at the Bahrain Financial Harbour, Ali Jaafar, a doctor at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, said in a phone interview. The hospital was treating injuries for smoke inhalation and fractures, he said.

Shiites, who comprise as much as 70 percent of Bahrain’s population, say they face discrimination over jobs and housing from the ruling Al Khalifa family, who are Sunnis, and their supporters. The calls for free elections, more housing and jobs, echo movements that have swept the region in the past two months and unseated longtime rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.

Crude oil prices have advanced 19 percent since the unrest in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, started on Feb. 14.

Union Strike
Bahrain’s Federation of Trade Unions called for a general strike from today in response to “excessive force” used by police to remove protesters from the Financial Harbor, the federation said in an-emailed statement. The federation has unions in the aluminum, oil and transport industries

“The government is responsible for bringing the country to this impasse and is also responsible for reaching solutions, which will save the country,” the federation said in the statement.

Osama Salman, a 44-year-old business consultant, said he took an unconscious protester to Salmaniya Medical Complex. “He was hit on the head by a tear gas canister,” Salman said in a telephone interview.

Some protesters later went to Bahrain University to support students rallying against the use of force earlier today, Mohammed Maskati, the head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said in a telephone interview. “People armed with sticks were trying to prevent the students from protesting, and have even beaten some up,” he said.

Other protesters moved back to the Pearl Roundabout and the Financial Harbour, said Salman. Demonstrators have camped in the central Pearl Roundabout in Manama, a key traffic junction in the city, to press their demands since last month.

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