Youths and police skirmish in Bahrain before Grand Prix

Dozens of young men skirmished with security forces west of Manama
Dozens of young men skirmished with security forces west of Manama Photo: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Bahrain police fired tear gas in clashes with rioting youths after thousands of opposition supporters rallied peacefully for democracy on Friday, two days before a Formula One Grand Prix in the Gulf kingdom.

A rally attended by men, women and children west of the capital Manama was orderly, but as it broke up, dozens of young men skirmished with security forces.

ITV News special correspondent Rageh Omaar reports:

An ITV News crew including Omaar was asked to leave Bahrain by the country's authorities as they reported on the unrest.

An ITV News spokeswoman said:

Our news team were on assignment with visas approved by the Bahraini authorities.

Having filed a report last night, they were stopped while filming this morning and taken to a local police station for discussions with officers.

They have since been asked to leave the country

Much of Bahrain, a country only about a quarter the size of Luxembourg, has stayed quiet despite the sporadic unrest with cafes, restaurants and bars in the capital operating normally.

But small, near nightly clashes have continued between youths and police in mainly Shi'ite villages outside Manama.

Protesters held banners reading "I Love Bahrain"
Protesters held banners reading "I Love Bahrain" Credit: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Many in the Shi'ite Muslim-majority state accuse the Sunni-led government of trying to use Sunday's Formula One race to paper over human rights abuses.

The opposition hopes the spotlight on the kingdom's biggest sporting event will help its struggle gain wider attention.

The race was cancelled in 2011 when the protests were crushed. Last year's race went ahead against a backdrop of burning tyres and riot police firing teargas at protesters throwing petrol bombs in Shi'ite Muslim villages.

As Friday's protest rally took place, free practice for the race was going on at the Sakhir desert circuit.