Bahrain mourners call for toppling of monarchy

Manama, Bahrain (AP) Thousands of mourners called for thedownfall of Bahrain''s ruling monarchy as burials began todayafter a deadly assault on pro-reform protesters that hasbrought army tanks into the streets of one of the moststrategic Western allies in the Gulf.

The cries against Bahrain''s king and his inner circlereflect an escalation of the demands from a political uprisingthat began just with calls to weaken the Sunni monarchy''s holdon top government posts and address claims of discriminationagainst the Shiite majority in the tiny island nation.

The mood, however, appears to have turned toward defianceof the entire ruling system after the brutal attack onyesterday on a protest encampment in Bahrain''s capital Manama,which left at least five dead and more than 230 injured.

"The regime has broken something inside of me ... All ofthese people gathered today have had something broken inthem," said Ahmed Makki Abu Taki, whose 23-year-old brotherMahmoud was killed in the pre-dawn sweep through the protestcamp in Manama''s Pearl Square. "We used to demand for thePrime Minister to step down, but now our demand is for theruling family to get out."

Outside a village mosque, several thousands mournersgathered to bury three men killed in the crackdown. The firstbody, covered in black velvet, was passed hand to hand towarda grave as it was being dug.

Amid the Shiite funeral rites, many chanted for theremoval of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the entire Sunnidynasty that has ruled for more than two centuries in Bahrain,the first nation in the Gulf to feel the pressure for changessweeping the Arab world.

"The government has shaken something inside us all and wehave lost all trust in it," said Mohamed Ali, 40, a civilservant as he choked back tears. "Our demands were peacefuland simple at first. We wanted the prime minister to stepdown. Now the demands are harsher and have reached thepinnacle of the pyramid. We want the whole government tofall."

There were no security forces near the mosque on theisland of Sitra, where three of those killed had lived.

The White House, in the meanwhile, has expressed "strongdispleasure" about the rising tensions in Bahrain, which ishome to the US Navy''s 5th Fleet and the centerpiece of thePentagon''s efforts to confront growing Iranian militaryambitions in the region.

The capital and other areas remained under the closewatch of the military and police which includes variousnationalities from around the region under a policy byBahrain''s ruling system to give citizenship and jobs to otherSunnis to try to offset the Shiites, who account for about 70percent of the population. MORE (AP)

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