Bahrain blasts underscore tensions over lack of political reform (+video)
While the past 21 months have seen ongoing protests, a series of bombs in Bahrain's capital that killed two workers Monday has raised concerns about escalating violence.
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Latin America Editor
Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.
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Less than a week after Bahrain's government banned protests, five bombs detonated across the capital Monday, intensifying concern about an escalation in violence amid frustrations over the pace of political reform.
Protests have been an ongoing feature of life in Bahrain over the past 21 months. But the bombings, which killed two people and seriously injured a third, represented a rare attack on civilians, and spurred finger-pointing between activists and the Sunni government.
Protesters, who are predominately Shiite, have been calling for more jobs, political representation, educational opportunities, and better housing. While the nation is governed by Sunnis, the population is 70 percent Shiite, and “Shiite youth activists in Bahrain – many demanding the downfall of the monarchy – have grown more radical in the past year, and some have used homemade weapons, including bombs, to attack police,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
No one has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s violence in Manama. The interior minister said yesterday that the bombs were homemade, describing the coordinated blasts as terrorist attacks. "It's [bombings] been a pattern, but five in one day – we haven't seen that in 20 months," said the spokesman for the Information Affairs Authority, Fahad al Binali.
The state newspaper, Al-Ayam, described the attacks as “a desperate attempt” to destabilize the kingdom, and “stirring fright and panic in citizens and residents in order to adversely impact the wheel of development and productivity.” The newspaper goes on to say that “evil minds” planted the bombs in order to instill fear and panic in the streets.
One victim reportedly kicked a bomb in front of a movie theater yesterday, setting it off, and both victims are reported to be “Asian street cleaners,” according to Reuters.
The New York Times reports that “[t]he government has frequently invoked terrorism when describing its opponents, or has cast them as accomplices in a foreign plot. It has cited the use of incendiary devices like Molotov cocktails by some protesters as a reason for the forceful response by the riot police.”
Opponents of the government, on the other hand, claim that the government coordinated the violence in an effort to justify its recent crackdown on protests, according to a separate Reuters article. Bahrain, when it temporarily banned all public demonstrations last week, threatened legal action against any group that backs rallies or protests, according to The Christian Science Monitor.