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New Sectarian Violence Erupts in Bahrain Protests

A row of riot police stand between two groups of Bahraini youths in the early hours of Friday in Hamad Town, March 4, 2011

Protests in Bahrain between Sunni and majority Shi'ite Muslims have erupted into sectarian violence for the first time since anti-government demonstrations started some two weeks ago.

Residents of Hamad town said Friday that police intervened to disperse young Sunnis and Shi'ites who clashed late Thursday.

Media reports say several people were injured in the violence. It is unclear what caused the incident.

Anti-government protesters gathered throughout the small Gulf island nation for the past two weeks, demanding the resignation of the government.

Unlike those held elsewhere in the Arab world, the protests in Bahrain are largely built around the competition for power between the Sunni minority and the Shi'ite majority, who complain of discrimination and lack of opportunity. Protesters say they want the Sunni monarchy to transfer powers to an elected government that is representative of the Gulf state's majority Shi'ites.

A government crackdown on opposition protests that began February 14 killed seven demonstrators before the island state's rulers agreed, under pressure from their Western allies, to allow peaceful demonstrations to continue.

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