Bahrain government officials resign as protests continue
The first cracks in Bahrain's regime emerged Thursday, after a foreign ministry official and a popular human rights activist resigned from their government posts in protest at the latest crackdown on demonstrators, dpa reported.
Nazar Al-Bahrnah, minister of state for foreign affairs, and Abdullah Al Durazi, who had been tasked with overseeing a national reconciliation committee, both stepped down in protest at the government's actions.
An estimated 5,000 people gathered in Manama's central Pearl Square Thursday to protest against the government, a day after four people were reported dead in clashes with the police.
The protesters said they were no longer demanding democratic reforms, but would accept nothing less than a regime change.
"People want to bring down the regime," was a popular slogan chanted by demonstrators, who have been inspired by the recent success of similar protesters in Tunisia and Egypt.
Doctors and nurses were also turning against the government after the defence ministry had ordered hospitals not to dispatch ambulances to treat the injured.
Thursday's developments follow a night in which the police surrounded the Pearl Square roundabout, where the protesters had camped out during the night, and used tear gas and opened fire without warning to disperse the crowd, witnesses told the German Press Agency dpa.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter that "security forces evacuated protesters from Pearl roundabout."
Police has closed down the area between the square and Salamnyia hospital, witnesses said, adding that the atmosphere remained "very tense."
Three protesters were killed when police cleared the square. According to witness reports another protester was killed and one seriously injured in later clashes in the area.
Two of the three dead protesters, an elderly man and a younger man whose bodies were at the Salamynia hospital, bore what appeared to be gunshot wounds, witnesses said.
Security sources clarified an earlier report that one policeman was killed, saying he was seriously injured.
Bahrain's demonstrations were triggered this week by the ouster of former president Hosny Mubarak in Egypt. Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy. Its prime minister, Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa, has been in power since 1971 - the longest-serving unelected prime minister in the world.
The protests have sparked alarm in the United States, since Bahrain hosts is a key US ally and hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.
The protests have also cast concerns that the country may not be able to host the opening race of the 2011 Formula One season, which kicks off in Bahrain on March 13.