MANAMA, BAHRAIN: At least three people were killed and 200 others injured after security forces in Bahrain's capital stormed an encampment of protesters on Thursday, the kingdom's health minister said.
According to eyewitnesses, police fired pellets, rubber bullets and tear gas to force protesters out of the Pearl Roundabout, a landmark city circle located in the center of Manama, and attacked demonstrators indiscriminately, CNN reported.
Dr. Faisal Ben Yacoub Al Hamar, the health minister, said on state television Thursday that three people died and at least 225 were injured amid the crackdown. Other major media organizations, however, have reported a death toll of at least four people.
About 195 of the injured were treated and released while 30 to 40 others remained hospitalized.
Authorities defended their handling of protesters early Thursday. They said they used a minimum of force and that their forces found firearms, knives and Hezbollah flags.
"Public security forces carried out this morning the evacuation of the crowd and the protesters from Pearl Square after exhausting all opportunities for dialogue with them, some of them have responded and left quietly, while others refused to comply with the law, which called to intervene in order to disperse them," an Interior Ministry official said, according to Bahrain News Agency.
An ABC reporter was attacked while he was on the phone, describing the scene of the network. He then returned to the audio line, and said, "These people are not screwing around."
Al Wefaq, the largest single party in the lower chamber of parliament with 18 out of 40 seats, announced after the crackdown that it had decided to withdraw from parliament
Party official Abdul Jalil Khalil, who has been head of the Al Wefaq parliamentary bloc, told CNN that the unrest is "a turning point" for the small nation of about 1 million people and noted that the casualty figures are "large scale" given the size of the population.
Al Wefaq is a Shiite party in a country with a sectarian divide. Bahrain is ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family, but two-thirds of the population are Shiite.
The protests in Bahrain started Sunday and intensified earlier this week after two demonstrators were killed by security forces. The United Nations human rights chief on Wednesday condemned the two deaths and urged authorities in Bahrain to stop using excessive force against protesters.
(BNO NEWS )