Violent protests shake Bahrain Eds: Adds reactions from the UN, EU, Germany
At least three people died and hundreds were injured on Thursday when officials in the Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain ordered a fierce crackdown on anti-government protesters, dpa reported http://www.dpa.de
The health ministry confirmed that three people had died and more than 200 were injured in overnight clashes between protesters and the police in the capital Manama.
But unconfirmed reports said at least two others were killed when riot police broke up a protest camp in Manama's central Pearl Square.
The United Nations, the European Union and Germany all condemned the crackdown.
US Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the reports from Bahrain were "deeply troubling."
"Here as elsewhere, violence should not be used against peaceful demonstrators and against journalists. It must stop. Those responsible must be brought to justice," Ban said.
A spokeswoman for the EU's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, called for "calm and restraint."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called upon Bahrain's leadership to immediately refrain from using force and to better protect the demonstrators, who were "only realizing their rights."
The Bahrain protests, which have been inspired by successful anti-regime uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, have also caused deep concern in Washington.
Bahrain is a key US ally and hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.
There were also growing concerns surrounding the Bahrain Grand Prix, which kick-starts the Formula One season on March 13.
Bahrain's Interior Ministry vowed to take the necessary steps to ensure security and break up what it said were unauthorized demonstrations.
A column of at least 25 tanks was seen moving along a main highway of the capital, where thousands of protesters have been campaigning for change.
Divisions within the government emerged after a Foreign Ministry official and a popular human rights activist stepped down in protest at the government's crackdown.
Eighteen lawmakers from the Shia opposition also resigned in protest.
Bahrain's protesters initially called for democratic reforms, but they were now saying they would accept nothing less than a regime change.
"People want to bring down the regime," was a popular slogan chanted by the thousands of demonstrators gathered in Manama.
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 clashes also forced the cancellation of a practice session for this weekend's GP2 Asia Series race.
"The medical staff normally stationed at the circuit has been temporarily called to the city's hospitals in case of an emergency.
"For obvious safety reasons, the GP2 Series organisers have decided to postpone today's track activity until tomorrow," organizers said in a statement.