Bahrain declares state of emergency after unrest

MANAMA Tue Mar 15, 2011 12:25pm GMT

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MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain has declared a state of emergency following weeks of unrest on the island kingdom, state television announced on Tuesday, saying the country's security forces would take charge for the next three months.

An order by the king "authorized the commander of Bahrain's defense forces to take all necessary measures to protect the safety of the country and its citizens," said a statement read out on television.

The royal order would come into force on Tuesday and would apply to all parts of the Gulf state, an oil and banking center which has been roiled by protests pitting the Shi'ite Muslim majority population against the ruling Sunni elite.

"These measures will be implemented by the Bahraini defense forces, the general security forces, the national guard and any other forces if necessary," the televised announcement said.

It referred to the state of emergency as "an act of national safety," adding that it had been imposed after Bahrain's institutions, economy and citizens had come under threat.

On Monday, more than 1,000 Saudi troops rolled into the kingdom at the request of Bahrain's Sunni rulers, who have failed to quell the country's worst unrest since the 1990s.

Sectarian clashes broke out in different parts of Bahrain overnight, with both Sunnis and Shi'ites trading accusations that they had been attacked by gangs of youths.

(Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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