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Bahrain Protesters Hit by Tear Gas

Bahraini riot police and soldiers move in on anti-government protesters March 25, 2011, in the western Shi'ite Muslim village of Malkiya, firing tear gas when villagers defied martial law by holding a protest march

Security forces in Bahrain have fired tear gas at anti-government demonstrators who defied a government ban on public gatherings and took to the streets.

Security teams held back protesters in mostly Shi'ite Muslim villages near Bahrain's capital, Manama, when they tried to rally after Friday prayers.

Government forces tightened security throughout the kingdom Friday, which opposition groups set for "Day of Rage" protests demanding political reforms. Troops set up checkpoints across the country while military jets flew overhead.

Activists have been protesting for about a month in Bahrain. The kingdom's Shi'ites, a majority of the population, have been demanding greater political freedoms from Sunni Muslims who control the government and make up the royal family.

Earlier this month, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declared martial law. Security forces in Manama swept through a square that had been a rallying point for demonstrators, and at least five people were killed in the crackdown.

Separately, Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, has filed a formal complaint with Lebanon, where Shi'ite members of Hezbollah have offered to support Bahrain's Shi'ites. Reuters news agency quotes the foreign minister as saying Bahrain will not tolerate threats from Hezbollah, which it considers a terrorist group.

On Tuesday, Bahrain's Foreign Ministry advised citizens not to travel to Lebanon, due to what it called "threats and interference from terrorist elements."

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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