Eyewitnesses said security forces on Friday fired at hundreds of mourners heading towards the Pearl Roundabout

Bahrain's sectarian divide deepened on Friday with a loyalist demonstration for the ruling Sunni royalty and vicious crackdown by the police on the majority Shia community demonstrating at the famous Pearl Roundabout, now a visible symbol of revolt in the shadow of Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Eyewitnesses said security forces on Friday fired at hundreds of mourners heading towards the Pearl Roundabout, sending them scurrying for cover. It is not clear whether live rounds were fired. A list of casualties has not emerged so far.

However, it is clear that the Bahraini government, does not want protesters to reoccupy Pearl Roundabout, preventing the structure from becoming the rallying point of a full blown pro-democracy movement.

In the early hours on Thursday, a heavy overnight crackdown cleared protesters from the square.

At least five protesters were killed, and hospital sources said more than 200 have been treated for injuries so far.

Thursday's crackdown, which brought emotive crowds in their hundreds into the hospital, has become the flashpoint of a second wave of shrill protests. Campaigners once calling for a constitutional monarchy are now calling for its head. On Friday, the shift in mood was evident from the chants of the mourners, in procession to bury the dead. Many shouted “Death to Khalifa”, referring to King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, the ruler.

Though tiny in size, Bahrain is a major factor in international geopolitics, being home to the American navy's fifth fleet, and on account of its proximity to the Shia-dominated oil-bearing eastern provinces of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As protests intensified, Kuwait on Friday emerged, as the second frontier in the pro-democracy campaign in the Gulf.

At least five people, including a security officer, were injured, during clashes between Kuwaiti riot police and stateless Arabs, demanding rights.

In Libya, which also is a major oil bearing nation, the city of Benghazi has become the epicentre of the pro-democracy revolt. Agency reports say hundreds of people have gathered for an anti-government protest. Human Rights Watch says that least 14 people have died in Libya, in clashes on Wednesday and Thursday between the police and protesters.

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