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Bahrain Live Blog

Bahrain - Apr 20, 2012 - 12:04

Last modified: 20 Apr 2012 09:04

Bahraini security forces have clashed with protesters against Bahrain's controversial Grand Prix in mainly Shia villages despite increasing security for the start of practice sessions.
The overnight clashes between protesters and security forces across Shia villages continued into the early morning on Friday, witnesses said. 

Formula One cars took to the track in Bahrain at about 07:00 GMT, with the government hoping for a successful Grand Prix, while activists are promising to mark it with "days of rage" after more than a year of Arab Spring protests.

"The people want to topple the regime," chanted dozens of protesters carrying pictures of jailed hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. "Down Hamad," they called, referring to Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Met by tear gas and sound bombs, the protesters responded by hurling petrol bombs at security forces, witnesses said.

Mohammed Al-Maskati, president of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera the mood in Manama in the run-up to Sunday's race was one of "anger".

He said the protesters "are very angry that [the] Formula One [race] was not cancelled - they want to send a message to say that sports must not support dictatorships and human rights violations".
Al Jazeera's correspondent in the capital Manama, who we are not naming due to reporting restrictions imposed by Bahrain's government, said a protest by anti-government demonstrators "will be held later today on the main highway in capital, where they will come out in force to show the world that Formula One really is not welcome here".
He said many were plagued with "security concerns".
"Most tourists and Formula One spectators are choosing to stay away from this race because it is just too controversial for them, I think people feel their security and personal wellbeing, cannot be guaranteed enough to make the trip worthwhile."

Continue reading our news story Clashes in Bahrain ahead of F1 race for more context.

For more of Al Jazeera's special coverage visit our spotlight page - Bahrain Protests.

[Clashes have been building in week leading to Sunday's round of World Championship - Photo: Reuters]