The government in Bahrain has said it is “confident” Sunday’s Formula One Grand Prix will not be disrupted by ongoing clashes between security forces and pro-democracy activists.
Violent protests against the minority Sunni Muslim royal family in the Gulf Kingdom have intensified in recent days, with up to 50,000 demonstrators gathering around the capital city of Manama, just 25 miles away from the heavily guarded track where today’s controversial race meeting is being held, according to The Daily Telegraph.
On Saturday the body of a 37-year-old protester, Salah Habib Abbas, who was killed in overnight clashes with riot police, was discovered on a rooftop, further fuelling the demonstrations.
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse thousands of activists who took to the streets to protest discrimination against the majority Shia Muslim community and demand the race’s cancellation. Human rights groups estimate that at least 25 people have died since the latest round of protests began.
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Despite the continuing violence, Fahad al Binali, spokesman for the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority, told the BBC measures had been taken to prevent activists from disrupting the event:
“Guaranteeing is difficult, but we have the best measures in place. I’m very confident and assure everybody about safety,” he said, adding that he was “surprised” the protesters had called for the race to be cancelled, as it offered them “a platform” to a global audience.
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Ahead of the race, Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa said in a statement that he wanted “to make clear my personal commitment to reform and reconciliation in our great country,” Sky News reports.
He said substantial progress had already been made, and added: “The door is always open for sincere dialogue amongst all our people.”
Last year’s Grand Prix in Bahrain was called off after 35 people died during a government crackdown on mass protests calling for democracy and political participation.
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