Several thousand protesters turned out in Bahrain on Friday to bury three of those killed in a crackdown ordered by the island state's Sunni ruling family to quell opposition protests inspired by Egypt.
Four protesters were killed on Thursday when riot police drove activists from a makeshift camp in Pearl Square in Manama, the capital. More than 230 were wounded and dozens were detained.
The protesters had hoped to turn the square into a base modelled on Cairo's Tahrir Square, fulcrum of the popular revolt that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Shi'ites form 70 percent of Bahraini nationals ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty.
Several thousand joined funeral processions in the windswept village of Sitra, south of Manama for three of the dead.
"The people want the fall of the regime," they cried.
Inside a mosque, men washed the body of 22-year-old student Mahmoud Abu Taki, whose shoulder was peppered with buckshot.
"He told me before he went there, 'don't worry, father, I want freedom'," said his father, Mekki Abu Taki, 53.
"This is a failed government," said Abu Taki, a real estate company manager. "Of course the protests will continue. The government here is like people of the jungle."
The bodies of his son and of Ali Mansour Khudeir, 58, were then draped in red and white Bahraini flags and placed on top of two vehicles which drove slowly through the streets.
"Dozens still missing"
"Trial, trial for the criminal gang," the crowd shouted. "Justice, freedom and constitutional monarchy."
There was no visible police presence in Sitra, although a helicopter circled overhead. On Tuesday, one protester was killed at the funeral of another.
The Gulf Arab country is closely allied to the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, which projects U.S. power across the Middle East and Central Asia, including Iraq and Afghanistan, is based near Manama.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Bahrain on Thursday to use restraint and to keep its promise "to hold accountable those who have used excessive force".
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said the police action was necessary because his country had been on the "brink of a sectarian abyss".
But Hassan Radi, 64, a lawyer in Sitra, contested that.
"Nobody wants to be sectarian, but the people are forced into it when they are discriminated against. No jobs, no respect, this is obvious," he said outside the mosque.
"What they are demanding is...a modern state with a real democratic constitution that ensures their rights and equality."
A decade ago Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa enacted a constitution allowing elections for a parliament with some powers, but royal family members still dominate a cabinet led by the king's uncle who has held his post for 40 years.
Jalal Fairooz, a lawmaker from the main Shi'ite bloc Wefaq, whose 17 members all resigned from the 40-seat assembly on Thursday, said two dozen people were still missing after the police raid on Pearl Square in the early hours.
Asked if the protests would continue, he said: "It is out of the hands of political parties. All the masses are full of anger and fear. They are not against the king or the ruling family, but they want an elected government."
Bahrain's Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Khaled bin Ali Khalifa, said it was important for the Wefaq bloc to stay in parliament to "push the democratic process forward", the state news agency reported.
Gulf Arab foreign ministers meeting in Manama on Thursday stressed their solidarity and support for Bahrain "politically and economically as well as militarily and defensively".
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council also said it would not accept foreign intervention in Bahrain's affairs.
Unrest which toppled the long-serving leaders of Egypt and Tunisia in recent weeks has spread across the Arab world. This week has seen deadly protests in Libya, Yemen and Iraq.
AgenciesLast Mod: 18 Şubat 2011, 14:27