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Thugs attack police in violent protests

THUGS yesterday attacked police and blocked access to several villages in an attempt to stop people going to work on the second anniversary of anti-government protests, which broke out in February 2011.

Date palms, concrete blocks, asbestos sheets and even burning cars - including one on the Budaiya Highway - were used to obstruct traffic on various locations from early morning.

Youths went on the rampage in Janusan, Duraz, Bilad Al Qadeem, Khamis, Sitra, Jidhafs, A'ali, Daih, Sanabis and other areas, clashing with police who were out in force to maintain order.

Protests began as early as midnight on Wednesday, but the situation calmed down by yesterday afternoon.

At least two civilian cars were set ablaze in separate incidents - one on the Budaiya Highway, near the Burgerland Roundabout, and the other in Salmabad.

There was traffic congestion in the areas affected, but police stationed patrols on main roads - as well as high-mobility Humvees and fire engines near highways - to ensure a rapid response.

In addition, the National Guard took up position at the former GCC (Pearl) Roundabout with back-up forces in reserve at the Bahrain Exhibition and Convention Authority car park in Sanabis.

Several businesses and shops across the country - from Manama to outlying villages like Duraz, A'ali and Bilad Al Qadeem - were closed during the morning.

However, people defied threats to stay at home and ventured out - with motorists in some cases getting out of their cars and clearing debris from the roads.

Scared

"We heard about all these messages being circulated warning expatriates not to go out on February 14 as some groups wanted a nationwide strike and to cause chaos," said Bangladeshi laundry worker Saifuluddin Mohammed, 42.

"But that does not stop me or anyone else from going out as we have to earn a living."

A Filipina waiting at a bus stop admitted that she was scared, but added her boss insisted all staff at his salon show up for duty.

"I work in a salon and my boss told our staff to come to work and ignore what is said by anyone," she said before safely boarding her bus.

"I have a family and need to send them money, I cannot afford to sit at home."

The GDN witnessed a group of masked thugs provoking police on the Budaiya Highway and attacking them with Molotov cocktails, prompting officers to respond with several rounds of tear gas to disperse them - leading to the temporary closure of the Burgerland Roundabout.

Police also blocked all entrances to Bilad Al Qadeem, near Khamis Mosque, between 10am and 11am after thugs pelted them with stones.

There were also traffic diversions as a security precaution in Sanabis, while Jidhafs was briefly under lockdown.

Our journalist in A'ali witnessed a young boy, barely in his teens, carrying Molotov cocktails and being followed by others carrying tyres to set ablaze, while young children were seen on the front lines of several protests hurling stones at police.

However, it was just another day at Bab Al Bahrain where all businesses were open - although there were fewer shoppers than normal.

"All shops in Manama opened as usual, despite this nonsense of strike called by some groups," said Ali Mohammed, 26, who owns a textile store.

"A few people were scared to open their shops in the morning, but seeing others they showed up late and their shutters were open by noon."

Another employee at a shop in the Manama Suq paid tribute to police on duty in the area.

"Policemen have been co-operative and guarding the area, as well as assisting motorists who asked whether shops were closed because of the February 14 strike called by some opposition groups," he said.

Opposition groups called for a day-long financial strike and urged their supporters to boycott shopping malls and other monetary transactions to cripple the economy yesterday.

A few protesters also called on their followers to take to their rooftops at 7pm to chant "Allahu Akhbar" (God is great).

All major shopping malls and hypermarkets were functioning normally, but those contacted declined to comment on whether they had seen a drop in shoppers.

Meanwhile, three Bahraini photographers were briefly detained while they were covering a protest in Daih yesterday. They were Mazen Mahdi, Mohammed Al Shaikh and Hassan Jamali, who all work for different international news agencies.

They were later released after being questioned.

sandy@gdn.com.bh



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