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Bahrain Youth Continue Struggle for Their Arab Spring

Clashes with government security forces follow deepening concerns about human rights abuses

- Common Dreams staff

Pro-democracy advocates and youth took to the streets in Bahrain on Friday, demanding further reforms from the government and calling for accountability for the torture and suppression of movement activists.

An anti-government protester returns a teargas canister fired by riot police during clashes in the village of Jidhafds, west of Manama, March 23, 2012. Bahraini protesters battled with riot police on Friday after the funeral of a woman, whose family said had died from inhaling teargas which entered her home. A U.N. rights body has expressed concern over the use of excessive force in the country. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah) Several hundred riot police with batons and shields fired tear gas into the neighbourhood as youths taunted them from a distance, according to Al-Jazeera. The scene saw protesters grab tear gas canisters and hurl them back towards police. Two civilians were killed as the result of indiscriminate firing of tear gas, according to members of the opposition.

"Come and fight hand to hand, you cowards, you animals!" one teenager shouted before throwing a rock at police.

The pro-democracy movement against the ruling government of Bahrain has been ongoing since last year, but has received lessening coverage in the Western media. The US Navy's Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain.

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Agence France-Presse: Tear gas kills two Bahrainis: oppositionRiot police fire teargas during clashes with anti-government protesters in the village of Jidhafds, west of Manama, March 23, 2012. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)

A man and a woman died of asphyxiation caused by tear gas grenades fired by Bahrain's security forces to disperse protests in Shiite villages, the country's main opposition group said on Saturday.

Ahmed Abdul Nabi, 31, died after a tear gas grenade landed in his family's house in the village of Shahrakan, said a statement by Al-Wefaq, citing family members.

The Shiite opposition group said he died due to the "poisoning and asphyxiating gases" used by security forces against Shiite youths, who stage frequent protests against the regime of the Sunni Muslim Al-Khalifa dynasty.

It provided a picture showing a broken window through which the canister is claimed to have entered the house.

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Al-Jazeera:  Bahrain protesters battle with police

Peaceful protests erupted into violence between police and demonstrators in several areas, exposing the divide between Bahrain’s formal political opposition and ranks of frustrated youth activists.

Thousands of people marched in 10 rallies on Friday organised by Al Wefaq, Bahrain's largest opposition political organisation in Bahrain.

The rallies were a show of defiance coming days after a government commission praised the king’s progress in implementing reforms since widespread protest began last year.

The marches were soon overshadowed by clashes that erupted in Sanabis and Sitra, two predominantly Shia villages.

The streets of Sitra were littered with broken glass and the chunks of cement that protesters used as makeshift roadblocks. Tear gas and thick black smoke from burning rubbish bins lingered in the air.

Clashes also broke out in Jidhafs, where mourners buried a woman who human rights groups said was killed by tear gas last night.

Police used water cannons and armoured vehicles to break up hundreds of protesters as they approached a checkpoint near Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the focal point of protests last year.

Several hundred riot police with batons and shields fired tear gas into the neighbourhood as youths taunted them from a distance. At times, the protesters grabbed tear gas canisters and hurled them back.

"Come and fight hand to hand, you cowards, you animals!" one teenager shouted before throwing a rock at police.

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Reuters adds:

Friday's clashes erupted during a series of 10 licenced protests organised by the Gulf Arab state's official opposition parties, led by the Shi'ite Wefaq group.

There were clashes at some other protests, and youths pulled down a lampost thought to carry a security camera facing a popular coffee shop in the Budaiya district. A police statement said Wefaq leaders would be questioned over the incidents.

The Feb. 14 Youth Coalition protesters broke away from one of those official protests, ignoring Wefaq organisers in orange vests with Wefaq logos who were directing traffic.

"This protest is for bringing down the regime. This one's for fighting," said one man as he ran down the street to join the group marching towards Pearl Roundabout, which has been under heavy guard and closed to traffic for a year.

Opposition parties, which include some Sunni and secular groups, want to reduce the powers of the Sunni ruling family, give parliament legislative clout and form a new cabinet. The government has been headed by King Hamad's uncle Sheikh Khalifa since Bahrain became independent in 1971.

A senior ruling family member has been in contact with Wefaq over possible dialogue to end a crisis that has slowed the economy. Hotels and some office blocks stand half-empty. Manama is no longer the weekend getaway it once was for Saudi tourists.

"The people of Bahrain announce that they will continue to use street action everywhere as long as we do not have our rights and one authority monopolises administration of the country," Wefaq and three other parties said in a statement.

Bahrain is aligned with Washington in its conflict with Iran over its nuclear work and hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

The United States has urged Bahrain to begin dialogue to end the crisis but Manama must also heed Saudi Arabia, with which it shares a major oil field.

Riyadh sent troops last March to help Bahrain break the protest movement, which erupted after revolts in Egypt and Tunisia shook the region by removing long-entrenched rulers.

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