Clashes in Bahrain ahead of protest anniversary

120214115232-lakhani-bahrain-revolution-00004830-story-top Police in Bahrain turned tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters who wanted to march from a Monday night demonstration on the outskirts of Manama toward a city landmark.

About 2,000 people broke away from the main body of the protest and started to march toward the Pearl Roundabout, the focal point of pro-democracy protests that began a year ago Tuesday. Several people were injured on both sides as police forced them back, with some demonstrators hurling Molotov cocktails at police during the melee.

In a statement issued late Monday, Gen. Tariq Hassan al-Hassan, Bahrain's public security chief, blamed "a large group of terrorists" for the clashes. He said demonstrators were disrupting traffic on main streets and attacked police when they intervened and ordered the protesters to disperse.

"They didn't oblige and continued breaking the law," al-Hassan said. "Security forces had to deal with the situation legally to restore things into normal."

In a joint statement, a coalition of opposition groups said they are conducting peaceful protests and warned that confrontations "would provide officials a scapegoat for not meeting legitimate demands of the people."

"The political societies consider dialogue as a strategic choice, something offered long time ago," they said. "However, any dialogue not meeting basic demands, such as people being the sources of all power, and not institutionalizing democracy is pointless and not feasible."

More demonstrations are scheduled for Tuesday's anniversary. Ahead of the event, Bahraini authorities deported two American human rights lawyers arrested at a demonstration over the weekend, the State Department and the activist group Witness Bahrain reported.

Last year's protests began amid the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. Bahraini authorities quickly clamped down on the demonstrations, even demolishing the landmark Pearl Monument that stood in the roundabout. They were aided by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which sent about 5,000 troops to shore up their neighboring kingdom.

In a November report, a commission set up by Bahrain's King Hamad al-Khalifa accused police of using excessive force and torture against civilians arrested during the clampdown.

Bahrain's Sunni Muslim monarchy blamed Iran for stirring up protests among its largely Shiite population, but an independent commission that investigated the Bahrain's response to the demonstrations found no link to the Shiite-dominated Islamic republic across the Persian Gulf.