Bahrain protesters gear up for mass rally

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Manama, Feb 25 (AFP) Bahrain protesters were gearingup for a mass rally today to honour the seven victims of adeadly police crackdown as an anti-regime campaign entered its12th day.

After days of angry protests, demonstrators milledabout Pearl Square, the epicentre of the movement, thismorning waving the red-and-white flag of Bahrain, an AFPcorrespondent said.

Many protesters, mainly Shiites demanding an end tothe Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty which has ruled for twocenturies, were chatting, preparing food, or relaxing in thetent city that has sprung up in the square.

"Nobody is scared of tanks or weapons," Ibrahim Ali, a42-year-old mechanical engineer told AFP as he arrived for thedemonstration.

"They will open their chests to face that," he added.

Like thousands of other Bahrainis, he has spent mostdays at the square since the uprising began on February 14 todemand the fall of the government in the majority Shiitekingdom as well as serious reforms.

One bearded young man in an orange vest was acceptingdonations from motorists, which he said was for food beingdistributed at the square.

Signs hanging around the square signalled that theprotests were far from over: "We will not accept any dialoguewith he who kills us in cold blood," declared one bannerhanging from an overpass.

"A free state and a happy people," read another, whilea third demanded the government "free all politicaldetainees."Security forces were not in evidence at the squaretoday.

Leading Shiite clerics have called on thedemonstrations to mourn the victims killed by security forces,urging protesters to march en masse to Pearl Square.

Official opposition groups have stopped short ofdemanding outright regime change, instead calling for majorreforms including the election of the prime minister and thecreation of a "real" constitutional monarchy. (AFP)

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