Thousands march to Bahrain capital

Growing unrest: Autocratic rulers in region under pressure as protests gain momentum

The killing, a day after a “Day of Rage” of protests on Monday, raised the prospect of further clashes between Bahrain’s majority Shi’ite Muslims and the Sunni security forces backed by the ruling Al Khalifa dynasty.

Bahrain’s main Shi’ite opposition bloc Wefaq, which accuses the ruler of discriminating and neglecting Shi’ites, responded to the violence by boycotting parliament.

Enraged mourners chanted anti-government slogans inspired by protests that toppled the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia.

“The people demand the fall of the regime!” protesters chanted.

Thousands poured into Pearl Roundabout in Manama’s city center, having marched from the funeral on the outskirts of Manama.

Dozens of police cars were parked 500 metres away.

Witnesses said the funeral clashes broke out when around 2,000 people set out from hospital to escort the body of slain protester Ali Mushaima through the alleys of Shi’ite villages towards his home, where his body was to be washed before burial.

Diplomats say Bahrain’s protests may gauge whether a larger Shi’ite base can be drawn to the streets to raise pressure for reforms that would give them a greater voice and better economic prospects.

Analysts say large-scale unrest in Bahrain, also home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a regional offshore banking centre, could also embolden fellow marginalised Shi’ites in nearby Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.

Probe ordered

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa expressed his condolences for “the death of two of our dear sons” in a televised speech and said a committee would investigate the killings.
“We will ask legislators to look into this issue and suggest needed laws to resolve it,” he said.Peaceful protests were legal in Bahrain, he said.

Stability concerns pushed up the cost of insuring Bahrain’s debt to the highest level since August 2009, with five-year credit default swaps rising 12 basis points, according to Markit.

Ibrahim Mattar, a Wefaq parliamentarian whose bloc won 18 of 40 seats in parliament’s lower house in a tightly controlled October election, said suspending participation was a first step.

“We want to see dialogue,” Mattar said.

Poverty, high unemployment and attempts by the government to grant Sunnis from outside the country jobs, housing and citizenship in order to change the demographic balance lie at the heart of deep-seated discontent among Bahrain’s Shi’ites.

Mushaima, the 22-year-old man being buried on Tuesday, was killed on Monday in clashes in Daih village as security forces clamped down on Shi’ite areas in the Gulf Arab kingdom.

Mattar told Reuters that police had tried to disperse the funeral procession using tear gas, but that mourners then regrouped and continued their procession. He said the man killed on Tuesday had been shot.

Bahrain police said the mourners had clashed with four police patrol vehicles at the scene when one of them broke down and the other three were trying to remove it. One person, Fadhel Salman Matrook, was wounded and later died in hospital.

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