19 Feb 2011

Thousands rally for funerals in Bahrain

3:43 pm on 19 February 2011

Thousands of people are attending funerals of victims of the security crackdown in Bahrain.

At least four people were killed and hundreds injured when security forces cleared demonstrators from Pearl Square.

Mourners waved banners and shouted slogans against the Government, the BBC reports. Some said they were ready to die for change.

A pro-government demonstration was also expected to be held just hours after Bahrain banned public gatherings.

Tanks have been stationed at strategic points around the streets of the capital, Manama.

On Thursday security forces used tanks, police vans and barbed wire to seal off the square, with eyewitnesses saying live ammunition was used against the demonstrators.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry says it will take every strict measure and deterrent to preserve security and order.

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa says police action was necessary to pull Bahrain back from the "brink of a sectarian abyss".

A New Zealander living in Bahrain, Peter Westley, said on Thursday he expected protestors would call a "day of rage" in Manama on Friday.

He says people have been panic buying basic foods.

Mr Westley says there are also rumours some companies are considering evacuating expatriates.

Another New Zealander, Gavin Cate, who works for Bahrain Polytechnic, says he has been told to keep away from areas where protests are underway.

Mr Cate says he was sent home from work early on Thursday as tanks rolled in to the city.

Foreign worries

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told Bahrain's Foreign Minister of her deep concern about the situation.

The US State Department says she urged restraint and discussed political and economic reforms with the minister.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described events in Bahrain as deeply troubling and says violence should not be used by the government there.