Bahrain protests: Five key facts

Bahrain (officially the Kingdom of Bahrain) doesn't usually receive much international attention. But the uprising that swept through the Middle East last year reached Bahrain's central Pearl Square, as thousands turned out to protest for reforms. Below are some key facts about this small cluster of islands off Saudi Arabia's coast.

Bahrainis shout slogans in Pearl Square in the Bahraini capital Manama on Feb.15. Protesters demanding sweeping political reforms from Bahrain's rulers held their ground Wednesday in an Egypt-style occupation of the capital's landmark square.

Why does Bahrain matter to the US?

Bahrain is certainly on the radar of the US military as a critical part of its operations in the Persian Gulf and beyond. Bahrain has allowed the US Navy to maintain a base there and has also allowed American troops, aircraft, and command headquarters to be housed on its soil. As a politically and religiously moderate country, Bahrain has also been a crucial ally for the US in its efforts to fight terrorism in the region and counter Iran’s growing influence.

IN PICTURES: Bahrain protests

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