Saudi Arabia’s troops were sent into Bahrain on Monday (March 14, 2011) to help keep calm weeks of protests caused by the Shi’ite Muslim majority. Opponents from the Sunni ruling family on the island called the move a declaration of war.
The troop movement into Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, was seen by analysts as one mark of concern in Saudi Arabia that concessions by the country’s monarchy could cause the conservative Sunni-ruled kingdom’s own Shi’ite minority.
About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain to protect government installations, one day after Shi’ite protesters attacked police and blocked roads in the most violent confrontations. They are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force, which includes six-member block coordinating military and economic policy in the world’s top oil-exporting region.
Saudi Arabian troops cross the causeway leading to Bahrain
Bahrain had asked the Gulf troops for support while the United Arab Emirates also send 500 police to Bahrain. Some 150 light armored troop carriers, ambulances, water tankers and jeeps reportedly crossed into Bahrain via the 25-km (16-mile) causeway to head toward Riffa, a Sunni area housing the royal family and military hospital.
Onlookers wave at Saudi Arabian troops crossing the causeway to Bahrain
Bahraini opposition groups including the largest Shi’ite party Wefaq said that they considered the entry of any soldier or military machinery into the Kingdom of Bahrain’s air, sea or land territories as a blatant occupation and an attack on defenseless citizens.
Anti-government protesters form the words “Game Over” with bricks when they block the roads from riot police at the junction of Bahrain Financial Harbour in Manama on March 14, 2011
The White House announced the U.S. did not consider the arrival of Saudi security forces to constitution and invasion but it urged the Bahrain government to exercise restraint.
Anti-government protesters block the roads from riot police
In areas across Bahrain, vigilantes, some armed with sticks or face-masks, guarded the entrances to their villages. A protester answered they would never leave their country when he was asked whether Saudi troops would stop them.
An anti-government protester gestures at riot police
Anti-government protesters confront riot police on a flyover near the Pearl Square in Manama on March 13, 2011
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