Bahrain bans all protests after clashes

Bahrain has banned all protests and gatherings to ensure security, the interior minister said Tuesday, after clashes erupted between Shia-led demonstrators and security forces in the Sunni-ruled Gulf state.

Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa made the announcement in a statement carried by the official BNA news agency, saying the decision was taken to preserve "civil peace".

The minister stressed recent opposition protests led by the Shiite movement Al-Wefaq had been marred by "acts of sabotage" and that the demonstrators had "called for the overthrow of the government."

"It was decided to stop all rallies and gatherings (to ensure) … security is maintained," said the statement.

It warned that "any illegal rally or gathering would be tackled through legal actions against those calling for it and participants."

The authorities had rejected an Al-Wefaq request for a rally on Sunday evening at Akar, a village near the capital Manama where a bomb fatally wounded a policeman on 18 October.

The opposition movement then organized a demonstration, in agreement with the authorities, and when people took to the streets they chanted "Down with Hamad," in reference to the Bahraini king.

For several days last week, police said they clashed with protesters at villages outside Manama, using buckshot to disperse them after being attacked with Molotov cocktails and iron rods.

Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since its forces crushed a month of popular protests led by members of its Shia Muslim majority in March last year.

Its Sunni rulers came under strong criticism from international human rights groups for the brutality of the deadly crackdown.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, a total of 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the violence began on 14 February 2011.

The government says more than 1,500 policemen have also been wounded in Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet and strategically situated across the Gulf from Shia Iran.

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