Video: Bahrain protest ends in bloodshed

  1. Closed captioning of: Bahrain protest ends in bloodshed

    >>> now as promised, to the middle east . the chain of nations where uprisings are under way both large and small, meaning mubarak of egypt might have been the first of several big leaders to be shown the door by the people. the latest nation in play is bahrain, where authorities are now cracking down hard to crush the uprising. our reporters were there for it. when security forces today unleashed live fire on hundreds of unarmed young people who had been at the funerals of protesters who were killed in an earlier crackdown by police and were then marching to the capital's main square . we have two reports tonight, beginning with nbc's john ray who witnessed the crackdown.

    >> reporter: this was the moment bahrain's ruler sent the army against their own people. what had been an apparently peaceful protest ended in panic. [ horns honking ]

    >> reporter: sustained bursts of gunfire rattled across the capital, and not all were fired in warning. ambulances raced to help those who had been hit. for some, it was already too late.

    >> my friend, people kill him. one bullet. i see his head bleeding. it was bleeding.

    >> reporter: witnesses told us some of the shots seemed to come from snipers in a tower block overlooking the street.

    >> the shooting began when protesters tried to reach the round-about. we heard volley after volley of shots. at first we thought the army was firing over the protesters' heads but it is now clear they were shooting into people. there were at least five injured here, an unknown number of

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/19/2011 4:10:50 AM ET 2011-02-19T09:10:50

Bahrain's Shiite opposition on Saturday rejected any dialogue with the Gulf kingdom's Sunni royal family until "tanks are off the streets" and the army stops "shooting at peaceful protesters."

Khalil al-Marzook, a senior member of Al Wifaq opposition bloc said the "atmosphere for dialogue," led by Bahrain's crown prince "is not right."

Security forces opened fire Friday on protesters for a second straight day of an uprising seeking to break the political grip of Bahrain's Sunni leaders.

Al Wefaq's 18 Shiite lawmakers resigned from the 40-member parliament on Thursday after the army raided the protest encampment on Manama's Pearl Square, killing at least five people.

Protesters are expected to try to take back the landmark square Saturday.

At least 50 people were wounded Friday as thousands defied the government and marched toward the square.

Once again, Bahrain authorities showed no hesitation in using force against demonstrators who ramped up demands to bring down the whole ruling monarchy.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with the king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, by telephone on Friday night and again urged his government to show restraint against "peaceful protesters," the White House said.

"As a long-standing partner of Bahrain, the president said that the United States believes that the stability of Bahrain depends upon respect for the universal rights of the people of Bahrain, and a process of meaningful reform that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis," according to a White House statement.

Obama earlier also condemned violence against the protesters in Libya and Yemen, where heavy crackdowns by old-guard regimes were reported.

A Libyan doctor said 35 protesters were killed in the eastern city of Benghazi during a confrontation with security forces, while three people were killed and 48 were wounded during protests called as part of a "Friday of rage" in Yemen.

The continuing wave of anger in the Arab world followed successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, where hundreds of thousands of people celebrated the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak one week ago.

'This is a war'
In Bahrain, critically injured protesters were again rushed to Manama's main Salmaniya hospital, which also received the dead and wounded after riot police smashed a protest encampment early Thursday in the landmark square.

Some doctors and medics on emergency medical teams were in tears as they tended to the wounded. X-rays showed bullets still lodged inside victims.

"This is a war," said Dr. Bassem Deif, an orthopedic surgeon examining people with bullet-shattered bones.

Of the 50 injured, seven were critically hurt, Health Ministry official said.

Seven people have died in Bahrain's unrest this week, including five on Thursday, and more than 200 have been wounded.

Protesters on Friday described a chaotic scene of tear gas clouds, bullets coming from many directions and people slipping in pools of blood as they sought cover. Some claimed the gunfire came from either helicopters or sniper nests.

Video: NYT's Kristof: 'Complete chaos' in Bahrain (on this page)

"Police attacking protesters here at hospital in Bahrain. Tear gas inside. Panic," tweeted New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof. Another message on his Twitter account read: "Patients pouring into ER, along w tear gas. Chaos. Tr gas grenades thudding in bckground."

An Associated Press cameraman saw army units shooting anti-aircraft weapons, fitted on top of armored personnel carriers, above the protesters, in apparent warning shots and attempts to drive them back from security cordons about 200 yards from the square.

Then the soldiers turned firearms on the crowd, one marcher said.

"People started running in all directions and bullets were flying," said Ali al-Haji, a 27-year-old bank clerk. "I saw people getting shot in the legs, chest, and one man was bleeding from his head."

"My eyes were full of tear gas, there was shooting and there was a lot of panic," said Mohammed Abdullah, a 37-year-old businessman taking part in the protest.

The clash came hours after funeral mourners and worshippers at Friday prayers called for the toppling of the Western-allied monarchy in the tiny island nation that is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, the centerpiece of the Pentagon's efforts to confront Iranian military influence.

Some members of Bahrain's Sunni ruling system worry that Shiite powerhouse Iran could use Bahrain's majority Shiites as a further foothold in the region.

Crisis deepens
Bahrain's crown prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa called for calm, saying it was "time for dialogue, not fighting".

Day by day, the crisis in Bahrain has deepened.

Mohammed, a 28-year-old banker who lives in Bahrain’s capital and asked that his last name not be printed out of fear for his safety, said the medical complex by Pearl Square was overwhelmed.

“There is blood everywhere,” he said. “Most of the shots are to the chest and the head. They were shot to kill; they were not shot to break down their gathering.”

The gunfire started as protesters joined funeral mourners in Pearl Square, carrying flowers to honor the dead.

Bing / msnbc.com

“As soon as they approached, there was gunfire,” he told msnbc.com from his home in Manama, too afraid to go outside during the clashes. “My friend is just two blocks away, and he saw people falling. I have another friend who told me it’s explosive chaos.”

Ambulance sirens were heard throughout central Manama a day after riot police swept through the protest encampment, killing at least five people.

The clash came just hours after funeral mourners and worshippers at Friday prayers called for the toppling of the Western-allied monarchy in the tiny island nation that is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The cries against the king and his inner circle — at a main Shiite mosque and at burials for those killed in Thursday's crushing attack — reflect an important escalation of the political uprising, which began with calls to weaken the Sunni monarchy's power and address claims of discrimination against the Shiite majority in the tiny island nation.

The mood, however, appears to have turned toward defiance of the entire ruling system after the brutal crackdown on a protest encampment in Bahrain's capital, Manama, which left at least five dead, more than 230 injured and put the nation under emergency-style footing with military forces in key areas and checkpoints on main roads.

Video: Angry funerals in Bahrain; unrest stirs (on this page)

"The regime has broken something inside of me ... All of these people gathered today have had something broken in them," said Ahmed Makki Abu Taki, whose 23-year-old brother Mahmoud was killed in the pre-dawn sweep through the protest camp in Manama's Pearl Square. "We used to demand for the prime minister to step down, but now our demand is for the ruling family to get out."

"He told me before he went there, 'don't worry, father, I want freedom'," the dead man's father, Mekki Abu Taki, 53, added.

Outside a village mosque, several thousand mourners gathered to bury three men killed in the crackdown. The first body, covered in black velvet, was passed hand to hand toward a grave as it was being dug.

'We have lost all trust'
Amid the Shiite rites, many chanted for the removal of the king and the entire Sunni dynasty that has ruled for more than two centuries in Bahrain — the first nation in the Gulf to feel the pressure for changes sweeping the Arab world.

"Our demands were peaceful and simple at first. We wanted the prime minister to step down,' Mohamed Ali, a 40-year-old civil servant, said as he choked back tears. "Now the demands are harsher and have reached the pinnacle of the pyramid. We want the whole government to fall."

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At a funeral in the Shiite village of Karzkan, opposition leaders urged protesters to keep up their fight but not to seek revenge.

"We know they have weapons and they are trying to drag us into violence," said Sheik Ali Salman, the leader of the largest Shiite party, Al Wefaq, whose 18 lawmakers have resigned in protest from the 40-seat parliament.

The protesters had called for the monarchy to give up control over top government posts and all critical decisions and address deep grievances by Shiites, who claim they face systematic discrimination and poverty and are blocked from key roles in public service and the military.

Shiites have clashed with police before over their complaints, including in the 1990s. But the growing numbers of Sunnis joining the latest demonstrations surprised authorities, said Simon Henderson, a Gulf specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"The Sunnis seem to increasingly dislike what is a very paternalistic government," he said. "As far as the Gulf rulers are concerned, there's only one proper way with this and that is: be tough and be tough early."

The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com's Elizabeth Chuck contributed to this story.

Explainer: Tiny nation, big history: What you need know about Bahrain

  • As the Gulf nation reacts to days of unrest, a look at its role on the world stage

  • Geography

    Image: Satellite image of Bahrain
    Universal Images Group  /  Getty Images
    Bahrain, Middle East, Asia, True Colour Satellite Image
    Bahrain, an archipelago in the Persian Gulf, is just 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C according to the latest estimate published in the CIA's World Factbook.

    Dwarfed by neighboring nations Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, Bahrain is the 187th largest on the globe — just outranking the island of Dominica — when you sort world nations by total area (land and water areas).

    For comparison: the U.S., the 3rd largest nation in the world, boasts a total area of nearly 3,794,100 square miles while Bahrain can claim just 293 square miles as its own.

  • Demographics

    Nearly 235,108 of the nation’s 738,004 residents are non-nationals, according to a July 2010 estimate.

    A Bahraini man uses his mobile phone as
    Adam Jan  /  AFP/Getty Images
    A Bahraini man uses his mobile phone as he leaves the Al-Fateh Mosque, the biggest mosque in the Gulf monarchy that can accommodate 7000 worshippers, in Manama on September 17, 2010. AFP PHOTO/ADAM JAN (Photo credit should read ADAM JAN/AFP/Getty Images)

    A large portion of Bahrainians — about 70 percent — belong to the Shiite branch of Islam, while the ruling family is Sunni.

    According to a report by Peter Beaumont in Britain's Guardian newspaper, the sectarian divide is a "key difference" between Bahrain's protests and those in Tunisia and Egypt.

    "The capital Manama is largely Sunni, while the Shiite population has been historically concentrated in the poorer rural areas where – according to some estimates – in some villages between one third and a half of the residents are unemployed."

  • Government

    Bahrain gained its independence from Britain in 1971. Shortly thereafter, a parliament and constitution – aimed at ensuring basic rights and equality – was put forth. The legislative process was immediately marred by tension and mistrust.

    Wary of what Foreign Policy magazine referred to as the “rising authoritarianism of the ruling family,” the legislative body and monarchy clashed over transparency and a measure known as “The Security Law.”

    The decree stipulated that political prisoners – who were primarily Shiite – "could be held for up to three years without charge for anything deemed threatening to the country." When parliament balked at passing the measure in 1975, the monarchy disbanded the body and passed the law on its own.

    In the years that followed, long-running tensions between Shiite and Sunni and populations continued to simmer, until riots and the death of the king opened the door for reform in 1999.

    Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa king of Bahrain
    Scott Olson  /  AFP/Getty Images
    Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa king of Bahrain speaks to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a visit to Safryia Palace on December 12, 2008 in Malkia, Bahrain. Gates is currently on a multi-day tour of the Middle East meeting with regional commanders and troops. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Scott Olson (Photo credit should read SCOTT OLSON/AFP/Getty Images)

    King Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa’s death saw his son, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (right) rise to power, and prolong the family's grip on the power, which began in 1783.

    Attempts to soothe Shiite anger and establish harmony quickly followed, but real power, to this day, remains with the monarchy.

    By title, the nation is a constitutional monarchy, in which a sovereign ruler is guided by a constitution that spells out the monarch’s rights and responsibilities – with the king’s son, Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa waiting in the wings as the heir to the crown.

  • Resources

    Facing limited oil reserves, Bahrain has transformed itself into an international banking hub.

    A 2007 study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia found that the nation – the smallest of the region – boasted its fastest growing economy thanks in part to an influx of foreign investors. The calendar’s turn to 2011 saw the nation’s economy deemed the “freest” in the Middle East according to a study by the Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal.

    Taking advantage of its location next to OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia, Bahrain has also turned itself into a playground for Saudis, many of whom frequent the nation’s Western-style bars, hotels and beaches.

    Despite punching well above its financial weight, the nation still struggles with unemployment, especially among the young. The latest estimates put the jobless figure at 15 percent.

  • International relations

    Two U.S. Navy Vessels Collide
    U.s. Navy  /  Getty Images
    In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) pulls into Mina Salman pier in Bahrain.(Photo by Cmdr. Jane Campbell/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
    Little Bahrain is a pillar of the Obama administration's military framework in the region. It hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is a critical counterbalance to Iran's efforts to expand its clout in the region.

    Officials fear that a prolonged crisis opens the door for a potential flashpoint between Iran and its Arab rivals in the Gulf.

Photos: March

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  1. Bahraini Shiites women attend the funeral of Bahiya al-Aradi, holding portraits of her, in central Manama on Monday, March 22. Aradi, 51, went missing on March 16 evening, and a car that she drove was found the day after in al-Qadam village, west of Manama, with bloodstains on the driver's seat. She was pronounced dead on March 21 after being shot in the head. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Bahraini opposition protesters carry the body of Abdulrasool al-Hajiri during his burial ceremony in Buri village, north of the capital, Manama, on Monday, March 21. Relatives accused the military of executing al-Hajiri after grabbing him at a checkpoint outside the village. Meanwhile, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa praised Saudi-led forces that he called in to help quell unprecedented unrest. (Mazen Mahdi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, right, meets with officers of the Gulf Cooperation Council's Peninsula Shield force late on March 20 in Manama. The monarch said Bahrain has foiled a "foreign plot" to target Gulf countries, in a possible reference to Iran, after security forces crushed Shiite-led unrest, the state news agency reported. (BNA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. An injured Pakistani man takes refuge at a Pakistan club in Manama on March 19. He said that he was attacked by Shiite Bahrainis in a Shiite neighborhood on March 19. According to Pakistani men, Shiites have been attacking Asian nationals, accusing them of taking away their jobs. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Young women look at welts on the body of a young man walking through the streets of Daih, a Shiite suburb of Manama, on March 19. The youth said he was returning from nearby Sanabis, another Shiite area, where he said he and several others were beaten by riot police. (Hasan Jamali / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Bahraini soldiers with the portrait of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on their armored personnel carrier are seen at a checkpoint near Pearl Square in Manama on March 19. (Sergey Ponomarev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The sisters of activist Ahmed Farhan mourn over his body in Sitra on March 18. Farhan, 29, was killed March 15 when police cracked down on opposition protesters in the town. (James Lawler Duggan / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. An unidentified man shows the bullet that was allegedly pulled from the head of killed opposition protester Ahmed Farhan before his burial on March 18. (Mazen Mahdi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Shiite mourners wrap the body of Ahmed Farhan before his funeral in Sitra on March 18. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Shiite mourners carry the coffin of Ahmed Farhan during his funeral in Sitra on March 18, as thousands of anti-regime activists defied martial law to renew their pro-democracy protests. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A Shiite woman stands in front of the national flag as she watches the funeral procession of Ahmed Farhan on March 18. (Sergey Ponomarev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A combination of pictures show the statue in the center of Pearl Square in Manama being torn down on March 18. The authorities demolished the statue, focal point and symbol of weeks of pro-democracy protests in the Gulf island kingdom. Drills and diggers cut away at the six bases of the statue for hours, until it collapsed into a mound of rubble and steel bars. Trucks stood by to take away the debris. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. People walk past a car damaged with shotgun pellets in Sitra on March 17. (James Lawler Duggan / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. The Bahraini National Guard arrest a man who was later identified as journalist Alex Delmar-Morgan of the Wall Street Journal as he walked towards Pearl Square in Manama on March 16. Several hours later, Morgan was released. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Anti-government protestors gesture towards military vehicles near Pearl Square in Manama on March 16 after police killed at least two protesters and wounded dozens more as they assaulted a peaceful protest camp in the capital's Pearl Square, an opposition party official said. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Black smoke billows from burning tents in Pearl Square in Manama on March 16 after soldiers and riot police used tear gas and armored vehicles to drive out hundreds of anti-government protesters occupying the square. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Black smoke billows in Pearl Square on March 16 after a full-scale assault on the protesters occupying the square was launched at daybreak by soldiers and police. (James Lawler Duggan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces move in to Pearl Square to remove anti-government protesters on March 16. The GCC is a union comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Doctors form a human chain at Salmaniya Hospital in Manama fearing an attack by riot police on March 15. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A man from the Shiite Muslim village of Sitra, south of the Bahraini capital Manama is brought to the Salmaniya hospital late on March 15 after he was shot with pellets of buckshot, as the king imposed a state of emergency after bringing in foreign troops to help quell anti-regime protests. (James Lawler Duggan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Thousands of anti-government protesters march to the Saudi embassy in Manama on March 15, a day after a Saudi-led military force entered the country to defend its Sunni monarchy from a Shiite-led protest movement. The yellow sign center foreground reads: "The Saudi army came to protect the illegitimate government, not the aggrieved, legitimate nation" and the banner at right says: "The Saudi army's entry to Bahrain is an occupation we will never accept." (Hasan Jamali / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Female anti-government protesters gather outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Manama on Tuesday, March 15. (James Lawler Duggan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Saudi Arabian troops cross the causeway leading to Bahrain on March 14. About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain to protect government facilities, a Saudi official source said, a day after mainly Shi'ite protesters overran police and blocked roads. (Reuters TV ) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Protesters confront riot police on a flyover near the Pearl Square in Manama on March 13. Bahraini riot police fired thick clouds of tear gas and pushed back protesters who blocked a main thoroughfare leading to the Bahrain Financial Harbour, a key business district in the Gulf Arab region's banking center. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Protesters set up makeshift roadblocks in Manama on March 13. Bahraini police clashed with demonstrators trying to occupy Manama's banking center, as protests spread from a peaceful sit-in to the heart of the strategic Gulf state's business district. (James Lawler Duggan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A protester gestures in front of riot police on an overpass near Pearl roundabout in Manama on March 13. (Hasan Jamali / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Opposition protesters take cover after being fired upon by police during an opposition march on Riffa, south of the capital Manama, on March 11. Police clashed with protesters on the outskirts of Riffa after pro-government supporters were able to pass through police lines and attack the opposition march, leaving hundreds injured according to the health ministry, mainly due to tear-gas inhalation. (Mazen Mahdi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Protesters holding signs that read: "Down With Al-Khalifa" (left and right) stand in front of the U.S. embassy during a demonstration where they accused the U.S. government of supporting dictatorships, in Manama on March 7. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. A protester kisses a police officer after being told to clear the way for a female driver in Manama on March 3. The protester was blocking the road during an anti-government rally. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Anti-government protesters gesture in front of the main gate of the Interior Ministry during demonstrations in Manama on March 2. Protests in Bahrain are starting to make forays away from the central square in Manama and into different parts of the city. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Anti-government protesters march toward the Pearl roundabout, March 1, in the capital of Manama. Tens of thousands of Bahrainis, largely Shiites, participated in the march urging unity among Sunnis and Shiites in demanding political reform. (Hasan Jamali / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: TOPSHOTS

Bahraini Shiites women attend t
    Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (31) 2011 Bahrain uprising - March
  2. Image: Bahraini protesters sit and rest in their tent at Pearl Square in Bahraini capital of Manama
    Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters
    Slideshow (63) 2011 Bahrain uprising - February

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