Thousands of Bahraini Shiites took to the streets Wednesday on the eve of the second anniversary of their crushed uprising, as a national dialogue aimed at ending a political stalemate resumed.
Following a call by opposition groups, demonstrators marched in 12 villages and chanted anti-regime slogans, witnesses said, amid calls for a general strike and nationwide protests on Thursday and Friday to commemorate the uprising.
"Khalifa! Step down," they chanted, addressing Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, an uncle of King Hamad who has been in office for more than four decades and is widely despised by the Shiite majority.
Although the protests ended peacefully, groups of youths later blocked streets in the village of Sitra, southeast of Manama, with garbage bins and rocks, an AFP correspondent said.
Riot police fired tear gas and shotguns to disperse them.
More demonstrations are expected on Thursday following calls by the February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition.
The clandestine radical cyber group has also urged a Friday march on what was once known as Pearl Square, where protesters camped for a month before being forcefully driven out in mid-March 2011.
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The mainstream opposition led by the Al-Wefaq Shiite formation called for a demonstration on Friday in Shiite villages.
The Bahraini authorities have in turn appealed for people to ignore the calls for strikes and civil disobedience.
Meanwhile, representatives of the opposition, and other pro-government political groups, and the government held on Wednesday a new session of talks of the national dialogue that resumed at the weekend, BNA state news agency reported.
Opposition groups, including Al-Wefaq, made a last-minute decision to join the talks after they had walked out in the first round in July 2011, complaining that they were not serious.
But protesters voiced their opposition to the initiative on Wednesday, chanting: "No to dialogue".
The opposition issued a statement at the end of the demonstrations insisting that an end to Bahrain's deadlock would be through a "comprehensive political solution that would hand power to the people and end dictatorship".
Bahrain has been rocked by unrest since its forces crushed the protests in March 2011. The unrest has so far left 80 people dead, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.