Manama, Feb 17 (AP) Riot police firing tear gas andrubber bullets stormed a landmark square occupied byanti-government protesters today, driving out demonstratorsand destroying a makeshift encampment that had become the hubfor demands to bring sweeping political changes to thekingdom.
The main opposition group Al Wefaq said at least twopeople were killed in the pre-dawn assault on Pearl Square,which was littered with flattened tents, trampled banners andbroken glass. There was no official word on deaths orinjuries.
After police regained control of the plaza, theychased protesters through side streets and put a ring ofvehicles around the area with blue lights flashing in thedarkened city just as the dawn call for prayers rang out.
The blow by authorities marked a dramatic shift intactics. It appeared Bahrain''s leaders had sought to rein insecurity forces after clashes Monday that left at least twopeople dead and brought sharp criticism from Western allies,including the US which operates its main naval base in theGulf from Bahrain.
Police held back yesterday as tens of thousands ofprotesters crowded into the seaside square, dominated by a300-foot (90-feet) monument to Bahrain''s history as a pearldiving center.
After the crackdown early today, protesters who werecamped in the square described police swarming in through acloud of eye-stinging tear gas.
"They attacked our tents, beating us with batons,"said Jafar Jafar, 17.
"The police were lined up at the bridge overhead. Theywere shooting tear gas from the bridge." (AP)