MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain's security forces deployed in force throughout the capital early Wednesday ahead of nationwide opposition protests that authorities have warned they will "forcefully confront."
Anti-government activists, inspired by the mass movement behind the military coup in Egypt, say they hope to gain new momentum by calling for nationwide protests and a general strike. But harsh warnings from the government are raising fears of more violence in the strategic Gulf kingdom.
Most shops appeared to be shuttered, and the largest Shiite political group Al Wifaq claimed in a statement that the strike was successful.
Helicopters hovered over empty streets in Manama. Security checkpoints surrounded by barbed wire guarded roads leading to the city from outlying neighborhoods populated by the Shiite majority, which is calling for a greater voice in the Sunni-ruled country.
Small groups of demonstrators have already begun to gather, will small groups of protesters chanting "Rebellion! Rebellion!" But the main marches are planned for later in the day, the 42nd anniversary of the country's independence.
The island nation with a native population of more than 550,000 has been gripped by near nonstop turmoil and increasingly divided along sectarian lines since February 2011, when Shiites inspired by the Arab Spring wave of revolutions began an uprising calling for a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled country.