Bahrain bomb blasts kill two foreign workers
At least 60 dead since Shi’ite protests began last year; Sunni-ruled Bahrain seen escalation in violence in recent weeks.
Bomb site in Manama, Bahrain Photo: Hamad I. Mohammed/Reuters
Two men died and a third was seriously wounded in Bahrain’s capital Manama on Monday in a series of blasts from homemade bombs, authorities in Bahrain said.
An initial investigation revealed that the first device detonated in the Gudaibiya neighborhood when one of the men who died kicked it, Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said. The second man died in another blast near the city’s Awal Cinema, while the third man was injured in a third explosion in Adliya, Bahrain’s state news agency BNA reported.
BNA said that all three men were Asian foreign workers, but did not give more details about their nationalities.
The head of Bahrain’s Capital Governorate Police warned residents not to touch strange objects and to notify the authorities if they saw anything suspicious. The Interior Ministry said the authorities have opened an investigation into the explosions, which they called “terror blasts.”
Bahrain’s state TV later broadcast graphic images of one of the dead men, including close up shots of his wounds. Images of the wounded man were also broadcast.
Sunni-ruled Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and situated across the Persian Gulf from its Shi’ite neighbor Iran, has seen an escalation in violence in recent weeks.
Last month a policeman was killed in a bomb blast during an anti-government protest in the predominantly Shi’ite village of al-Akr.
The kingdom has experienced unrest since February 2011 when demonstrators from the Shi’ite majority began demanding political reforms. At least 60 people, including police officers, have been killed since the protests began. Thousands of people have been arrested and imprisoned.
In March 2011, Bahrain brought troops from neighboring Sunni states to help suppress the protests.
Last week, Bahrain cracked down on protests by declaring a ban on all public rallies and marches.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said the ban was a temporary measure that would be in place until security in the kingdom stabilized.
“The decisions aims at preserving national unity, protecting social cohesion and averting all forms of extremism,” BNA quoted Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa as saying.
Rights groups including Amnesty International slammed the ban, saying it violated freedom of expression.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called on Bahrain to lift the ban.
Bahrain’s leading opposition party, the Shi’ite Al- Wefaq National Islamic Society, said the measure was an attempt to silence it. Last month, the Bahraini authorities banned several Al-Wefaq rallies, calling them unlicensed and illegal, and threatened to prosecute anyone attending them.
Al-Wefaq has accused the Sunni authorities of restricting religious freedoms and of using excessive force against protesters, most recently at a religious gathering in Samaheej, east of Manama, last week.
“Without prior warning, the forces attacked citizens Friday, who were holding an annual religious gathering.
This comes to prove the regime policy of imposing more restrictions on freedoms and rights of citizens and religious freedom is no exception here, this behavior reveals the moral downfall of the regime,” Al-Wefaq said in a statement published on its website.
Rights groups have also accused Bahrain of cracking down on opposition activists who have used social media to criticize the regime. On Monday, a Bahraini criminal court sentenced two activists to prison terms for defaming King Hamad bin Isa Al Thani on microblogging site Twitter. One of the men, whom some activists on Twitter named as Salman Darwish, received a onemonth prison sentence, and the second man received a three-month jail term. Last week, the court sentenced another Twitter activist to six months in prison. A fourth man is expected to be sentenced in the next few days.
Police arrested all four men in October, according to London- based campaign group Index, which said that Bahrain has stepped up its monitoring of social networks in the wake of an amendment to its cyber-defamation laws in September.
Bahrain has blamed Iran of inciting sedition and sectarianism in the kingdom, last month accusing Tehran of spreading false information via the media, charges Iran denies.
Iran’s state and pro-regime media have given extensive coverage to the Bahraini protests, arguing that the opposition movement is part of a wider Iranian-inspired “Islamic awakening” – Tehran’s term for the Arab Spring. Last month, the managing director of Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Fars News said that regional geopolitics “will be changed in the case of the Shi’ites victory in Bahrain,” while in September Bahrain slammed Iran for tampering with the text of a speech by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to replace “Syria” with “Bahrain” in comments made during the Non- Aligned Movement summit in Tehran.