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Pearl monument razed

THE monument at the centre of the Pearl Roundabout, which had become a focal point for anti-government protesters, was pulled down by authorities yesterday. Witnesses described the painstaking process of completely removing the monument, which started early yesterday morning. The GDN reported that diggers had moved in to remove earth from around the structure on Thursday.

However, witnesses said an operation to pull down the monument started at around 5am yesterday, with the concrete foundations being bulldozed before workers began removing bolts from each of the structure's six legs.

"They have been using jackhammers to remove each leg from its concrete base," said a witness who lives near the intersection, which is officially known as the GCC Roundabout.

"Piles of rubbish that were left behind by protesters have now been cleaned up and moved to wasteland opposite Dana Mall."

The roundabout had been taken over by anti-government protesters, who had set up camp in the middle of the intersection for the past month.

It was first occupied on February 15 as protests gathered momentum, but was cleared in the early hours of February 17 in a police operation that resulted in the deaths of four protesters - as well as injuries to both police and demonstrators.

The Bahraini military was brought in to secure the intersection on the same day, but attempts by protesters to march on the roundabout on February 18 resulted in another casualty - prompting authorities to pull the tanks off the streets on February 19.

Camped

Riot police were also pulled out of the area on February 19 allowing protesters to retake the Pearl Roundabout, where they remained camped out in the middle of the intersection in tents. However, on Wednesday morning police swooped to evict protesters from the roundabout in an operation that left two officers dead.

Security forces moved in after protesters ignored warnings against demonstrating outside the Bahrain Financial Harbour on Sunday, bringing rush hour traffic to a halt in both directions and attacking police who tried to move them on with knives and swords.

Wednesday's operation took place just a day after Bahrain declared a State of National Safety and two days after the first troops from neighbouring GCC countries arrived in the country to boost security.

Some 1,000 Saudi soldiers and 500 police officers from the UAE are now stationed here as part of a joint Peninsula Shield operation, while Kuwait is reportedly sending naval forces here to help secure Bahrain's territorial waters. Qatar has also sent troops as part of Peninsula Shield, a Qatari military official was quoted as saying by AFP.

The GDN reported yesterday that seven opposition figures have now been arrested and are facing charges of plotting to overthrow the regime with support from abroad, inciting people to kill, spreading fear and provoking others to damage public and private property.

The arrests took place on the same day that Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary for Regional and Gulf Co-operation Council Affairs, Ambassador Hamad Al Hamer accused Iran of interfering in Bahrain's internal affairs. alicia@gdn.com.bh



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