Bahraini riot police retreated from Pearl Square on Saturday and thousands of anti-government protesters streamed back into their former stronghold in Manama.
Crowds had approached Pearl Square from different directions. They stood facing riot police for half an hour. All of a sudden police ran to their buses and retreated.
The protesters, cheering and waving flags, ran to the centre of the traffic circle, reoccupying it even before all the police had left. The crowd waved the fleeing policemen through. Police vehicles drove over pavements in their haste to get out.
Protesters cheered and kissed the ground in joy and took pictures of about 60 police vehicles leaving the area. One man fell to his hands and knees in tears.
Troops in tanks and armoured vehicles earlier withdrew from the square, which they had taken over on Thursday after riot police attacked protesters who had camped out there, killing four people and wounding 231.
"We took this square in a peaceful manner. The Khalifa henchmen, they killed my friends here," said one protester, referring to Bahrain's Sunni Muslim ruling family.
Sixty to 80 people were taken to a Bahrain hospital on Saturday after being affected by teargas or hit by rubber bullets, a doctor said.
The doctor said the Salmaniya hospital was now full and did not have enough oxygen to deal with the casualties.
"National day of mourning"
Bahrain's crown prince on Saturday called for a national day of mourning "for the sons we have lost", the state news agency reported.
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Force, called for calm, asking citizens to unite and cooperate with all political forces in the country.
"I stress, once more, that our duty is to preserve security and stability, to ensure that there is no discord and that the situation does not worsen," the statement on Bahrain's national news agency said.
"Join us to calm the situation, so that we can announce a day of mourning for our lost sons."
He earlier ordered the withdrawal of all military from the streets of Bahrain with immediate effect.
ReutersLast Mod: 19 Şubat 2011, 16:27