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Bahrain fires tear gas, stun grenades to halt protesters

Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters

Anti-government protesters take cover as riot police fire tear gas during a protest in Manama on Thursday night.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. ET:

Protests in Bahrain appear to have picked up recently despite the findings released in November of a government-backed  commission established to investigate abuses by the government and security forces, Mariwan Hama-Saeed of Human Rights Watch says.

"We were expecting (the government) just to ease up on these people, but since this report was published we've seen crackdowns every day," he says.


The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), set-up by the government in June, found that security forces had engaged in a patterns of serious human rights abuses, including the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and ill-treatment of detainees and denial of fair trial guarantees.

The government of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has pledged to respond to the commission's findings, but an estimated hundreds remain in detention in the wake of the protests, with at least 23 of them being leaders of Bahrain's political opposition, Hama-Saeed says.

Published at 3:25 a.m. ET:

Bahraini security forces violently broke-up a protest in the Gulf kingdom's capital Friday, using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the marchers, the BBC reported.

More than 3,000 people participated in the protest, which the government said was illegal, the BBC reported.

The march was led by leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was beaten by security forces on Friday, Jan. 6, according to Human Rights Watch.

"We are using the streets peacefully. We are marching for our rights," Rajab told the BBC.

Human Rights Watch on Friday called on authorities to "immediately halt attacks on peaceful protesters."

Bahrain, where members of the Shiite majority began protesting against the country's Sunni royal family in February, is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

On Thursday, the government said it would rebuild 12 Shiite mosques demolished by authorities during the unrest. 

The work seeks to address allegations of abuses raised by an independent report on the uprising.

As part of the widespread crackdowns, Bahraini authorities razed Shiite mosques they claimed were built illegally or had other violations.

Over 35 people are thought to have died in the unrest on the island nation in the Gulf off the Coast of Saudi Arabia, which has a population of around 1.2 million.

Msnbc.com's F. Brinley Bruton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.