MANAMA (Reuters) - Police in Bahrain dismantled by force during the night of Wednesday to Thursday, an encampment of protesters demanding political change in the kingdom, during an operation that killed three people, witnesses and opposition.
The Ministry of Interior wrote on Twitter that security forces had "cleared the place of the Pearl" in Manama and a grand avenue of the capital was partially closed.
Fifty armored vehicles were seen driving towards the Place de la Perle.
More than a dozen tanks, military vehicles and army ambulances were seen in central Manama.
Helicopters flew over the city and the tow trucks were clearing the site of the Pearl, which floated even the smell of tear gas, vehicles abandoned by the demonstrators. The place was practically empty, strewn with abandoned tents and blankets.
Inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of Bahrainis, mainly from the Shiite majority, protested since Monday to demand political and social reforms in the kingdom ruled by a Sunni family.
Hundreds of them had begun to camp on the Place de la Perle, hoping to transform it into a rallying point of protest to the image of what the Egyptians did on Tahrir Square in Cairo until the fall of "Hosni Mubarak.
"They are killing us"
"The police are to intervene, she launched tear gas," said one demonstrator reached by telephone in the night by Reuters.
Another said: "I am wounded, I bleed. They are killing us."
One protester said he evacuated two wounded by car by rubber bullets.
"I was there (...) The men fled but women and children could not run as fast," said Ibrahim Mattar, a member of Wefaq, the main Shiite opposition.
"Two people are dead, it's confirmed," he added. "Others are in serious condition."
Another member of Wefaq, Sayed Hadi, told Reuters that a third protester was killed, bringing to five the total number of deaths this week.
"This is terrorism pure and simple," said the head of Wefaq, Khalil Abdul Jalil, also a member. "Whoever made the decision to attack the demonstrators had intended to kill."
About 200 people gathered in a major city hospitals.
POVERTY AND UNEMPLOYMENT
"There has not been the slightest warning. It was like an offensive against the enemy. People were sleeping quietly," said a protester who requested anonymity.
The Wefaq, which suspended its parliamentary activities, Wednesday called for adopting a new constitution more democratic.
"We do not want to establish a religious state. We want a civil democracy (...) in which the people are the source of power, and for this we need a new constitution," said Secretary General party, Sheikh Ali Salman, at a press conference.
The protesters' main demand is the resignation of Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa, who ruled the country since its independence in 1971. Uncle of King Hamad bin Issa al Khalifa, he is seen as a symbol of wealth the ruling family.
The demonstrators also denounced poverty and unemployment. They were also concerned about the benefits accorded to foreign Sunni from settling in the small kingdom (citizenship, employment in the security forces, housing) that tend to alter the demographic balance.
In the 1990s, Bahrain has already been the scene of unrest. The adoption in 2002 of a new constitution and organize elections had helped restore calm, but the opposition considers these reforms now insufficient.
The angry demonstrators had been pronounced dead Wednesday by two of them on Monday and Tuesday in clashes with security forces.
"The people calling the fall of the regime," shouted protesters Wednesday, beating his chest, a gesture of mourning for Shiites.
According to news agency from Qatar, the Foreign Ministers of the Gulf countries will meet in Bahrain on Thursday evening to discuss the turmoil that hit the kingdom.