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Tens of thousands of Bahraini pro-democracy protesters wave signs and national flags during a march along a divided four-lane highway near Barbar, Bahrain, west of the capital of Manama, Feb. 15, 2014.

Tens of thousands of Bahraini pro-democracy protesters wave signs and national flags during a march along a divided four-lane highway near Barbar, Bahrain, west of the capital of Manama, Feb. 15, 2014.

Reuters

The rally organized by the kingdom’s main opposition al-Wefaq movement was one of the biggest staged since 2011.

Vast crowds of men, women and children took to the streets of the small Gulf Arab nation calling for democracy, political reform and the release of political prisoners, witnesses said.

“We will not stop until we achieve our demands,” protesters shouted. “Shi’ites and Sunnis, we all love this country.”

Police could not be seen at the rally on Budaiya Highway, which links Bahrain’s southern Budaiya region with the capital Manama, witnesses said. No clashes were reported.

The Interior Ministry said a policeman had died after being wounded by a “terrorist” blast on Friday. Three other policemenwere wounded the same day, while 26 people had been arrested.

“Some villages saw rioting, vandalism and the targeting of policemen,” the ministry said, referring to Friday’s unrest.

Bahrain, with Saudi help, crushed the demonstrations that began on Feb. 14, 2011 inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere, but has yet to resolve the conflict between majority Shi’ites and the Sunni-led monarchy they accuse of oppressing them.

The ruling family has launched a third round of dialogue with its opponents, but no political agreement is in sight.

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SFGate

Bahrainis protest, wounded police officer dies

Updated 11:41 am, Saturday, February 15, 2014

Police officers carry the body of fellow policeman Abdul Wahid Al Balouchi, who was killed in a bombing on Friday, during his funeral procession in Riffa, Bahrain, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. Thousands of Bahraini protesters clashed with security forces on Saturday, sending tear gas into a major shopping mall and bringing the capital's streets to a standstill on the same day that authorities said a police officer died of injuries sustained from an earlier bombing. Photo: Uncredited, AP / AP
Police officers carry the body of fellow policeman Abdul Wahid Al Balouchi, who was killed in a bombing on Friday, during his funeral procession in Riffa, Bahrain, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. Thousands of Bahraini protesters clashed with security forces on Saturday, sending tear gas into a major shopping mall and bringing the capital’s streets to a standstill on the same day that authorities said a police officer died of injuries sustained from an earlier bombing. Photo: Uncredited, AP

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahraini anti-government activists clashed with security forces as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Saturday, sending tear gas into a major shopping mall and bringing the capital’s streets to a standstill on the same day that authorities said a police officer died of injuries sustained from an earlier bombing.

The Interior Ministry said that the officer was one of two injured in what it called a “terrorist blast” on Friday in the village of Dair, near the country’s main airport. It did not identify the officer. In a second statement, the ministry characterized recent attacks against security forces as “urban guerrilla warfare.”

Chaos in the small Gulf-island nation highlights deeper regional sectarian tensions that continue to roil Bahrain three years after the country’s majority Shiites began an Arab Spring-inspired uprising to demand greater political rights from the Sunni-led monarchy.

Neighboring Sunni-ruled Gulf countries with smaller Shiite populations, led by Saudi Arabia, sent troops to Bahrain in an effort to stem the uprising in 2011. More than 65 people have died in the unrest, but rights groups and others put the death toll higher.

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