Bahrain has imposed emergency-style rules banning all protest gatherings and threatening legal action against groups considered to be backing escalating demonstrations and clashes in the strategic Gulf kingdom. The order, announced by the Interior Ministry, is the most sweeping attempt to quash the kingdom's anti-government uprising since martial law rules were in effect during the early months of unrest last year. It sharply increases pressure on political groups from Bahrain's Shiite Muslim majority, which has led the protests seeking a greater political voice in the Sunni Muslim-ruled nation.
A statement by the Interior Ministry says Bahraini society is "fed up" with near nonstop demonstrations and clashes and "there [is] a need to put an end to them." It adds that any "illegal rally or gathering [will] be tackled through legal actions against those calling for and participating in it." This warning appeared aimed particularly at the largest Shiite political bloc, Al-Wefaq, which has organized many opposition marches. Another rally is planned for Friday. An Al-Wefaq official struck a defiant tone, calling the order "against international human rights." (Read more Bahrain stories.)