Gulf & Middle East
Bahraini police, protesters clash on eve of F1 contest
Apr 14, 2007 - 4:52:37 PM

Manama, April 14 - Bahraini police and protesters clashed here as the Gulf Island prepared to play host to this year's third leg of the F1 World Championship.

The clashes in Manama Friday afternoon quickly spread to adjacent suburbs after police tried to prevent a rally called for by 15 opposition figures protesting the alleged government moves to change the island's demography via illegal naturalisation.

The motorsport action on the 5.4-km track in Bahrain started Friday with two free practise sessions while as the race over 57 laps is on Sunday.

A senior Bahraini official criticised the protest organizers for failing to obtain proper permits and for intentionally timing it to coincide with the F1 event.

The official noted that members of the group organised an un-authorized rally around the same last year time and provoked heavy clashes in what he said was an attempt to distort the reality of the situation in the country.

Protesters and police initially clashed in the capital, but the violence quickly spread to Shia suburbs with protesters hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at police who used tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse them.

Several cars were damaged during the clashes, with each side accusing the other of intentionally causing the damages.

Ambulances were seen rushing into the areas of clashes but medical sources said that only one person was taken to hospital to be treated for tear-gas inhalation, while several others were treated on the scene.

Clashes ended around midnight in the suburb of Sanabis amid conflicting reports of several rioting youth being detained.

None of the 15 leaders calling for the protest attended the rally, claiming that police prevented them from reaching the area.

Police had a heavy presence surrounding the rally point, but movement into and out of the area was unrestricted according to eyewitnesses.

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