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Shi’ite marchers mark anniversary of Bahrain protest

A protester carried a crate of Molotov cocktails yesterday near Manama, the capital of Bahrain.
A protester carried a crate of Molotov cocktails yesterday near Manama, the capital of Bahrain.Hasan Jamali/Associated Press/Associated Press

MANAMA, Bahrain - Mainly Shi'ite Muslim protesters in Bahrain marked the first anniversary of their antigovernment rallies yesterday by marching toward the former Pearl Roundabout, the focus of last year's demonstrations.

Riot police fired tear gas at the protesters heading to the location, where the roundabout has been demolished and turned into an intersection. Dense black smoke rose in the distance as demonstrators burned tires in Shi'ite villages. Authorities arrested at least 25 people, including nine women, who were on their way to the roundabout site, Mohammed al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said by phone.

"They are storming houses suspected of harboring demonstrators, using tear gas, closing roads, and arresting people,'' Maskati said.

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Protests led by Bahrain's Shi'ite majority broke out a year ago demanding democracy and equal rights from the Sunni monarchy, leading to a crackdown by security forces in which troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf countries were called in.

The Interior Ministry said in a Twitter posting that "rioters'' were arrested for blocking traffic on a major highway and would face prosecution.

The United States urged the government and people of Bahrain to work together and refrain from violence. The Obama administration supports the government's pledge to fully implement the recommendations of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry, which looked into last year's violence, said Victoria Nuland, State Department spokeswoman, yesterday.

"This is not going to be easy,'' Nuland said. "But making these kinds of deep-seated institutional changes that the BICI has called for will help forge the kind of path we need to see towards reconciliation in Bahrain.''

She said Bahrain is a "longstanding'' and "valued'' partner of the United States, which bases the Navy's Fifth Fleet there.