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Bahrain Authorities Block Anniversary Protests

Anti-government protesters run toward Farooq Junction, also known as Pearl Square, after breaking barriers set up by police during a protest in Budaiya, west of Manama, Bahrain, February 13, 2012.

Activists in Bahrain say authorities have made arrests and prevented protesters from gathering at the site of a landmark roundabout in the capital, Manama, on the first anniversary of the country's pro-democracy uprising.

Extra police and military forces were patrolling Manama and its suburbs on Tuesday, while many major roads were shut to prevent activists from marching back to the Pearl Roundabout where the protest movement began a year ago.

The area has since been made a restricted military zone, and by early evening, security officials had stopped several attempts by demonstrators to reach it.

Violence in Shi'ite neighborhoods

Clashes were reported in several Shi’ite neighborhoods, where tear gas was seen billowing through the streets.

Mahmood Mansoor said police broke into several houses in the Sanabis district, including his.

"They broke windows, they broke doors, they stole gold, but we don’t know why," said Mansoor.

Shi’ite Muslims make up the majority of Bahrain’s opposition. They say they are treated like second-class citizens by the ruling Sunni minority and have been calling for democratic reform in the Persian Gulf kingdom.

Many Sunnis say the protesters do not represent the views of most Bahrainis.

Small, conciliatory steps

The government has been taking small steps at national reconciliation, but many analysts say more needs to be done.

Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen is a research fellow at the London School of Economics.

"The violence has intensified with the continued tear-gassing of protests and signs that the opposition are becoming more militarized, as well," said Coates-Ulrichsen.

With political reforms moving at a slow pace, a growing number of activists have been hurling fire-bombs at police and burning tires to block roads.

Pleading for peace

The government and the Shi'ite opposition party al-Wefaq have condemned the violence.

Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner urged Bahrain’s leaders to allow peaceful demonstrations.

He also underscored America’s strong relationship with the kingdom, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Rights groups say more than 60 people have been killed during the past year of Bahrain's uprising.

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