Bahraini police have opened fire on anti-government protesters marching towards the royal palace in the capital, injuring at least 150 people.
There are also reports suggesting that security forces and pro-government vigilantes armed with clubs, swords and metal pipes are beating protesters near the royal complex.
Witnesses say at least ten ambulances were rushed to the area.
The violence came as nearly 50,000 demonstrators tried to stage a protest rally near the royal palace in the Refaa area of Manama on Friday, demanding political reforms.
Thousands of women have also joined the protest rally demanding an end to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s rule. Protesters are also calling for the ouster of the government and want a new constitution.
Bahraini authorities, however, claim that security forces fired tear gas on anti-government protesters to stop them from heading toward a square near the royal palace, where hundreds of armed pro-regime loyalists were waiting for them.
Bahraini security officials had earlier warned against demonstrations near the palace, saying they would deal with the issue as a national security threat.
“The march that some people are trying to hold today to the Reffa area threatens security and social peace,” an interior ministry statement said on Friday.
“The interior ministry holds the organizers and participants of this march responsible for the consequences and reiterates the need to avert any confrontation among the residents that could result in unnecessary loss of life,” the statement added.
“Under these conditions…the interior ministry confirms that forces to defend public order will be present to prevent any clash that may occur between the residents.”
All roads leading to the palace were blocked since early in the morning, forcing protesters to walk long distances to reach the area where members of the Sunni royal family live. Agencies