Bahrain Military Crushes Protests

Bahrain protests

Joseph Eid, AFP / Getty Images

Tanks and military patrols violently intervened against pro-democracy protests in Bahrain's capital on Thursday morning, resulting in the disbanding of a protest camp and several reported deaths.

The tiny kingdom located in the Persian Gulf is currently experiencing the wave of pro-democracy fever that has circulated throughout the Arab world in recent weeks in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere.

As anti-government protestors camped in Manama's Pearl Square, oppposing the rule of the Sunni monarchy and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, police and military members launched a suprise early-morning assualt in an effort to remove the demonstrators. Men and women alike were beaten with clubs and exposed to tear gas.

The AP is reporting that the fierce government tactics may only instigate more anger and resolve from the Shiite majority and its supporters. Before the attack there had been demands for rallies on Friday. In the wake of the bloodshed, angry demonstrators chanted "the regime must go."

ABC News correspondent Miguel Marquez was also reportedly injured in the upheaval.

Lonely Planet compares Bahrain to an oyster – a reference to the bountiful amount of oysters and pearls found in the waters surrounding the kingdom's islands. Tourism highlights include plenty of archaeological sites, the National Museum in Manama, and a Formula One race track, which might have to cancel its 2011 Grand Prix plans due to the unrest.

So far, no airline or travel restrictions for tourists in the area have been enacted. Some cruises, however, are revising itineraries to avoid stopping in Bahrain.

Bahrain serves as an important ally to the United States in the Middle East. U.S. Navy resources are stationed there, and its location close to Iran is critical for military interests. The State Department has not released any warnings regarding travel to Bahrain, but did confirm that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called Bahrain's foreign minister and "urged restraint moving forward."

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