Image: The Pearl Square statue is tore down in Manama
HAMAD I MOHAMMED  /  Reuters
The Pearl Roundabout statue is torn down in Manama on Friday.
updated 3/18/2011 5:55:36 PM ET 2011-03-18T21:55:36

Bahrain on Friday tore down the 300-foot monument at the heart of a square purged of Shiite protesters this week, erasing a symbol of an uprising that's inflaming sectarian tensions across the region.

The monument — six white curved beams topped with a huge cement pearl — was built in Pearl Square as a tribute to the Sunni-ruled kingdom's history as a pearl-diving center. It became the backdrop to the Shiite majority's uprising after protesters set up a month-long camp at Pearl Square in the capital, Manama.

Security forces overran the camp on Wednesday, setting off clashes that killed at least five people, including two policemen. At least 12 people have been killed in the month-long revolt.

Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, told reporters in Manama that the army brought down the monument because "it was a bad memory."

"We are not waging war, we are restoring law and order," Khalid said at a press conference in Manama.

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Shiite anger rose sharply around the Mideast on Friday as large crowds in Iran and Iraq cursed Bahrain's Sunni monarchy and its Saudi backers over the violent crackdown on protesters demanding more rights.

Amateur video footage of security forces shooting and beating protesters has spread across the internet and fueled fury in predominantly Shiite Iraq and in Iran, where a senior cleric on Friday urged Bahraini protesters to keep going until victory or death.

Thousands of Bahrainis gathered for the funeral of Ahmed Farhan, a 29-year-old demonstrator slain Tuesday in the town of Sitra hours after the king declared martial law in response to a month of escalating protests. Sitra, the hub of Bahrain's oil industry, has been the site of the worst confrontations.

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A funeral for Abdul-Jaffer Mohammed Abdul-Ali, 40, took place in the village of Karranah, west of the capital. His brother Abdul-Ali Mohammed told The Associated Press that Abdel-Jaffer was killed on Wednesday morning on his way to Pearl Square to reinforce the protesters' lines during the military assault on the encampment.

"My brother was not a political man, but he participated in the protest every day to have a better future for his four children," Abdul-Ali said.

"When he heard the Pearl Square was under attack, he went there," he added. "Our country is under siege and he wanted to help liberate it."

Shiites account for 70 percent of the tiny island's half-million people but they are widely excluded from high-level posts and positions in the police and military of the country, whic is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

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"Brothers and sisters" in Bahrain should "resist against the enemy until you die or win," Iranian Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University, a nationally televised forum seen as expressing the views of Iran's ruling Shiite clergy.

Worshippers chanted angry slogans against Saudi Arabia's royal family, which has sent troops to back Bahrain's king.

"There is no God but Allah, Al Saud is God's enemy," some chanted in Arabic. One Persian banner read, "Death to Al Saud."

Across Iraq, thousands rallied in mostly Shiite cities in the country's largest demonstrations since a wave of dissent spread across the Middle East in the wake of Tunisia's overthrow of its autocratic president.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani — Iraqi-based Shiism's highest ranking cleric in the Mideast — suspended teachings at religious schools across Iraq on Friday in a show of solidarity with the protesters.

A representative of al-Sistani warned during his Friday sermon in the holy city of Karbala that the brutal images of what is happening in Bahrain will inflame passions and lead to sectarian problems in the region.

Bahrain's rulers invited armies from other Sunni-ruled Gulf countries this week to help root out dissent as the month of protests spiraled into widespread calls for an end to the Sunni monarchy. In declaring emergency rule, the king gave the military wide powers to battle the uprising.

There are no apparent links between Iran and Bahrain's Shiite opposition but the U.S. and Sunni leaders in the Persian Gulf leaders have expressed concern that Iran could use the unrest in Bahrain to expand its influence in the region. Iran has recalled its ambassador from Bahrain to protest the crackdown.

The United States bases the 5th Fleet in Bahrain partly to counter Iran's military reach around the region.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Shocking video shows protester shot in Bahrain

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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    Above: Slideshow (31) 2011 Bahrain uprising - March
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    Slideshow (63) 2011 Bahrain uprising - February

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