Armored troops rolled into Bahrain from neighboring Saudi Arabia on Monday to help restore order in the strategic Gulf kingdom, where pro-democracy demonstrators have shut down the financial centre.
Thousands of protesters occupied Manama’s business district, turning the regional banking hub into a ghost town as they pressed their calls for democratic reform by the monarchy.
The Saudi Government said it had responded to a call for help from its neighbor as Saudi-led forces from the Gulf countries’ joint Peninsula Shield Force crossed the causeway separating the two countries.
“The Council of Ministers has confirmed that it has answered a request by Bahrain for support,” the Saudi Government said in a statement carried by the SPA state news agency.
It said that under an agreement of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), “any harm done to the security of a member state is considered a harm done to the security of all members.”
The Saudi contingent is made up of 1,000 soldiers while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also confirmed it was participating in the operation.
The UAE has sent around 500 police officers into Bahrain to calm protests, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said on Monday. “Other Gulf countries will also participate to get calm and order in Bahrain who asked us to look at ways to defuse the tension,” he added.
Television footage showed convoys of unmarked, desert-brown colored armored vehicles crossing the causeway from Saudi’s Eastern Province into Bahrain, the home of the US 5th Fleet.
The Shia-led opposition alliance said any foreign force would be treated as an invading army.
Sunday was the worst day of violence in the tiny Gulf Kingdom since 7 people were killed at the start of anti-regime unrest a month ago. His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, underscored the importance of dialogue, urging parties keen on peace, security and reform to engage in a multiparty national dialogue immediately. However, he rejected any compromise on security and stability.
Sourrce: Reuters; The Express Tribune; Al Arabiya.