New Bahrain crackdown: Opposition leaders wounded (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
The Opposition Al Wefaq organization claims its secretary-general Sheik Ali Salman was shot in the shoulder and back with rubber bullets during demonstrations in Manama. Another opposition leader, Hassan al-Marzooq, was shot and wounded in the chest.
The Bahraini Interior Ministry has yet to comment on the incident, but promised to prevent the Al Wefaq from organizing a protest in the Sehla suburb district of the capital Manana.
The ministry claims the rallies are obstructing traffic. The ministry further says Al Wefaq has already been licensed to conduct a number of protests this year.
“Security forces have been careful in dealing professionally with political leaders but this time was different. It seems a gradual crackdown is going on," senior Al Wefaq party member Matar Matar told Reuters. "They are closing the small margin for freedom of expression.”
There have been reports of a heavy police presence in the suburb. Protesters were reportedly throwing Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with teargas grenades and rubber bullets.
The uprising in the Kingdom of Bahrain, which hosts America’s Fifth Fleet, has been ongoing for 16 months. The country’s Shia majority is rallying against the Western-backed Sunni monarchy to get broader political rights and participate more actively in the governing of their country.
The ruling Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family has made some concessions to the Shia protesters. The parliament's powers of scrutiny over ministers and budgets have been extended, although the key demands for full legislative powers and elected governments was turned down.
The government accuses Al Wefaq supporters of following a sectarian Shiite agenda. The opposition party insists the Bahraini leadership is making excuses to avoid giving up its privileges.
A Bahraini Shiite protester throws a stone towards the riot police during an anti-government demonstration in the village of Musalla, West of Manama on June 22, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
Bahraini riot policemen take a position as Shiite protesters throw stones during an anti-government protest in the village of Musalla, West of Manama on June 22, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
Bahraini riot policemen confront the protesters during an anti-government demonstration in the village of Musalla, West of Manama on June 22, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
A Bahraini Shiite medic removes small pellets from a wounded Bahraini Shiite demonstrator inside a house in Sitra village, south of Manama, on June 21, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
A Bahraini Shiite Muslim demonstrator shows his injured hand as he waits for treatment by Bahraini Shiite medics at a house in Sitra village, south of Manama, on June 21, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)