A series of bombs in Bahrain’s capital has killed two people, a sign the opposition may be increasingly turning to violence in the uprising against its rulers.
The apparently coordinated string of five explosions in Manama – described by officials as “terrorism” – comes less than a week after Bahrain banned all protest gatherings in attempts to quell the deepening unrest in the strategic kingdom, which is home the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Clashes have not eased however, and crowds have pelted three police stations with firebombs.
More than 55 people have been killed in Bahrain’s unrest since February 2011 as the nation’s majority Shiites press for a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled nation.
In the latest violence two Asian men were killed and a third person injured as at least five home-made explosive devices were detonated.
One man died after kicking the bomb and triggering the explosion and the other died from injuries in a separate blast. Like all Gulf Arab countries, Bahrain has a large South Asian community of expatriate workers.
The official Bahrain News Agency described the blasts as an “act of terrorism.”
Anti-government factions in Bahrain have used home-made bombs in the past, including a blast that killed a policeman last month in a mostly Shiite village.
But the latest attack suggests an expanding campaign of violence because of the scope of the bombings and their placement scattered throughout the heart of the capital, including one area of restaurants and nightlife popular with Westerners.
Bahrain’s Western allies have urged for renewed efforts at dialogue to ease the crisis, but opposition groups insist that talks cannot move forward unless the monarchy is willing to make greater concessions to loosen its hold on the country’s affairs.
Bahrain’s leaders have so far made reforms that include transferring more oversight powers to the elected parliament.
Shiites comprise about 70% of Bahrain’s 525,000 citizens, but claim they face systematic discrimination such as being blocked from top political and security posts.
Last week, the US State Department issued unusually harsh criticism against ally Bahrain after its decision to outlaw all public demonstrations.
Previously, officials in Bahrain had permitted some protest marches, but most clashes have occurred outside the authorised rallies.