Navy takes precautions amid calls for protests in Bahrain
MANAMA, Bahrain — The U.S. Embassy closed Wednesday in anticipation of anti-government protests, but at and around the U.S. Navy base in Bahrain, where U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters is located, it was business as usual.
Predominantly Shiite opposition groups had called for Wednesday to be a day of rebellion in Bahrain — partly inspired by the protest movement in Egypt that resulted in the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi last month.
Bahraini authorities said they would oppose protests associated with that call with force, and tightened security in the tiny island nation with checkpoints and a robust police presence.
Planned protests near the U.S. Embassy prompted officials to close it for the day as a precaution.
Navy officials simply advised servicemembers to minimize nonessential travel until Thursday and reminded sailors to comply with force protection guidelines.
Base officials also declared the Manama Souq, City Center mall and Seef Mall — all highly popular shopping areas — off-limits at least until Thursday because of expected demonstrations in those areas.
In downtown Manama some shops voluntarily closed for the day, anticipating few customers and the possibility of violence.
But there were no signs of increased security on base.
Throughout Bahrain there were various peaceful marches, but also reports of vandalism and arrests.
Shiites, who make up more than two-thirds of Bahrain’s citizens, are demanding political and economic reforms from the ruling Sunni establishment.
However, in Bahrain, foreigners make up more than 50 percent of the population, many of them workers from south Asia. One Asian worker was hit by a Molotov cocktail thrown by a demonstrator Wednesday, when he was attempting to remove a barrier blocking a street during morning rush hour, according to Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior.