Bahrainis demand regime change after two killed

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Manama, Feb 15 (AFP) Thousands of Bahrainisdemonstrated in the capital Manama today demanding regimechange in the Gulf kingdom like that in Egypt and Tunisiaafter two protesters were killed in clashes with police.

The protests in a country, which saw deadly unrest inthe 1990s between the majority-Shiite population and the Sunniruling family, prompted Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone tovoice concern about next month''s Grand Prix which opens thenew Formula One season.

"This is your only and last chance to change theregime," read a banner carried by protesters who descended onManama''s Pearl Roundabout, shortly after the funeral of one ofthe two Shiite demonstrators.

The banners and slogans of the Bahraini protestersechoed those of the demonstrators in Cairo''s Tahrir Squarewhose 18 straight days of protest triggered the dramatic endon Friday of Hosni Mubarak''s 30-year rule.

Cyber activists outraged by the killing of the twoprotesters had called for the Manama demonstration onFacebook. MPs from Bahrain''s main Shiite opposition blocwalked out of parliament.

Protesters appeared to have turned a deaf ear to KingHamad, who addressed the nation today expressing sorrow forthe deaths and announcing a ministerial investigation.

Some protesters erected a tent, saying their sit-inwill continue until their demands are met.

Demonstrators want a "contractual constitution and apeaceful transfer of power," said MP Mohammed Mezaal, of theShiite opposition Islamic National Accord Association whose 18MPs walked out of the 40-member parliament.

The decision came because of "the deterioration insecurity and the negative and brutal way in which(authorities) dealt with the protesters, killing two of them,"said another of the bloc''s MPs, Khalil al-Marzooq.

Fadel Salman Matrouk was shot dead in front of ahospital today where mourners gathered for the funeral of AliMsheymah who died of his wounds after police dispersed aprotest in a village east of Manama yesterday, Marzooq said.

He described both men as "martyrs."

King Hamad said the reform process which saw therestoration in 2002 of the parliament dissolved in 1975 wouldcontinue.

The Shiite opposition has long complained that theelected chamber''s legislative authority is shared with a newappointed upper house. (AFP)

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