US officials in Bahrain take precautions ahead of uprising anniversary
By HENDRICK SIMOES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 11, 2015
MANAMA, Bahrain — The Department of Defense-operated Bahrain School will be closed as a precaution Thursday, ahead of the Feb. 14 anniversary of protests that threatened to topple the kingdom’s Sunni monarchy in 2011.
Following a violent crackdown that year, the protest movement has lost strength, but sporadic demonstrations by predominantly Shiite citizens demanding political and economic reforms have continued.
“There will be no sports or other activities at Bahrain Elementary and Bahrain Middle/High schools on Thursday and through the weekend,” said a message on the Naval Support Activity Bahrain’s Facebook page. In Bahrain, the weekend is Friday and Saturday.
Protests and violent activity typically grow more intense in the days leading up to the Feb. 14 anniversary, often involving clashes with local authorities. Three police officers were injured Saturday when they were attacked with Molotov cocktails while extinguishing a tire fire on a Manama roadway, Bahraini officials said.
Protest activity may include tire fires, traffic disruptions and the use of explosives, U.S. officials warn.
The tiny island Persian Gulf kingdom is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and roughly 8,300 U.S. personnel, including families.
The Bahrain School, operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity is located in the Manama neighborhood of Juffair near the U.S. Navy base. The area around the school is often the scene of demonstrations. Officials plan to proceed with classes as usual on Sunday, the first day of the work week in Bahrain.
Navy officials said U.S. Navy operations in Bahrain would not otherwise be affected. Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, U.S. 5th Fleet spokesman, told Stars and Stripes that the Navy will accommodate those personnel with child-care issues resulting from the school closure.
He stressed that U.S. military personnel and their families should be especially mindful to avoid restricted areas and exercise increased vigilance when traveling around the kingdom.