Violence mars Bahrain Grand Prix on eve of practice runs

Violence marred Bahrain's controversial Grand Prix race as a fire bomb exploded near Force India team members and protesters clashed with police in the lead-up to the Formula One practice runs set to begin on Friday.

Security has been beefed up ahead of Sunday's race, but the incident prompted F1 officials to reassure participants that, despite the violence, Bahrain was safe.

Speaking to reporters at the Sakhir circuit, chairman of the Formula One Grand Prix Drivers Association, Pedro de la Rosa, said safety is "not a concern."

He added that he had full faith in the decision by the International Motoring Federation to hold the event despite mounting tensions in the kingdom.

Four members of the Force India team were stuck in traffic when a fire bomb exploded as they returned from the Sakhir circuit to their hotel late on Wednesday, Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed Alzayani told Autosport magazine.

The four mechanics apparently got caught up in a clash between protesters and police on the motorway from the capital Manama to Sakhir.

Nobody was injured.

A spokesman for the Force India team confirmed the incident and said one team member, not involved in the incident, and a contractor hired by the team, had chosen to return home as a result of the blast.

Alzayani played down the incident and said he would not request any tighter security as a result.

"It was an isolated incident ... The protesters were not targeting the cars, they just happened to be there," he said.

Force India driver German Nico Hulkenberg said it was "not right" that members of his team had been close to an exploding fire bomb, but added that he still felt safe.

Mohammad Mascati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, told AFP that security forces fired tear gas and sound bombs to disperse dozens who protested in Manama on Thursday, adding that police set up checkpoints at the entrances to the capital.

In other developments, Bahrain has denied visas to foreign journalists and photographers, including from AFP, to cover the race.

An AFP photographer, accredited by the sport's governing body, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile), was informed by Bahrain's information affairs authority that there has been a "delay to your visa application, so it might not be processed."

Associated Press said two of its Dubai-based journalists were prevented from covering the Grant Prix because they could not receive entry visas, despite also being accredited by the FIA.

Meanwhile, cameramen already in Bahrain were required to keep fluorescent orange stickers on their cameras so that they would be easily recognisable to ensure they do not cover any off-track events, such as ongoing protests.

Bahrain's main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, has called for a week of daily protests to coincide with the Grand Prix, using the sports event to focus media attention on their longstanding demands for greater equality and representation in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

"There is a desire to take advantage of the presence of (international) press, normally barred from entering the country," said Bahraini rights activist Nabil Rajab.

"The Formula One... is a symbol of the regime, it represents its repression," said Rajab, noting that the Bahrain race was a personal project of the crown prince.

The government on Thursday barred Al-Wefaq from holding a protest in central Manama, an interior ministry statement said.

The announcement came in the wake of several demonstrations in Bahrain's Shiite villages late on Wednesday, in which police and protesters clashed.

Witnesses said police used tear gas and buckshot to disperse the crowds, wounding a number of people, with protesters hurling petrol bombs in response.

The violent clashes followed calls by the February 14 Youth Movement on social networking sites for "three days of rage" to coincide with the event.

Earlier this week, hundreds of protesters marched carrying banners calling for a boycott and a demonstration was held near Bahrain's international airport as the teams began arriving, despite the arrest of about 80 leading democracy activists.

The Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled last year in the wake of a Shiite-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy and the brutal government crackdown that followed in which a government commission said 35 people were killed.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • 15 wounded in 2 explosions in restive southern Philippines

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — At least 15 people have been wounded in two separate blasts that hit a police camp in a restive southern Philippine province where Muslim militants operate, police said Saturday. …

  • 15 wounded in mosque attack at Philippine police camp
    15 wounded in mosque attack at Philippine police camp

    Fifteen people including 10 police officers were wounded in an attack on a mosque at police camp on a remote Philippine island long plagued by Islamic militancy, officials said on Saturday. Successive blasts targeted the mosque inside Camp Kasim on the island of Jolo early evening Friday -- an initial grenade attack followed by a bomb explosion less than 10 minutes later that was intended to target police who rushed to the scene, local authorities said. "It seems the (first) explosion was set …

  • US missile cruiser docks at Subic
    US missile cruiser docks at Subic

    A US Navy missile cruiser has dropped anchor in Subic Bay as part of “routine port call,” amid rising tension in the West Philippine Sea stirred by China’s island building activities and other threatening moves by its forces. The arrival of the Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67) at the Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City yesterday was “just a routine port visit for ship replenishment and routine maintenance of shipboard system,” said Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office …

  • Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño
    Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño

    The agriculture and power sectors, as well as the general public should brace for a prolonged El Niño phenomenon that could further reduce water supply for electricity and irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned yesterday. Flaviana Hilario, acting deputy administrator for research and development of PAGASA, said the El Niño condition is expected to intensify from weak to moderate by August this year. Anthony Lucero, …

  • China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row
    China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row

    The US should help “cool down” the Philippines and realize that its meddling in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute would only stir tensions, a Chinese newspaper reported. “Washington should know its meddling in the South China Sea has been destabilizing the region. The US has vowed not to take sides in the territorial dispute, which involves China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. …

  • No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests
    No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests

    K to 12 is the fruit of years of comprehensive consultations involving different sectors in education,” Aquino said during the launching of the program at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. Organized by the Department of Education (DepEd), the launch was attended by teachers, students and representatives from different stakeholders supportive of the K to 12 program. It was held two years after the signing of Republic Act 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education …

  • MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t
    MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t

    The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) maintained its bid for completion of the tripartite review of the implementation of the peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996. The MNLF’s desire to put consensual closure to the tripartite effort was relayed by its leaders to Sayed El-Masry, the special envoy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), during the annual foreign ministers conference in Kuwait last Thursday. The MNLF peace agreement with the government in Sept. 2, …

  • Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe
    Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe

    President Aquino is expected to raise the West Philippine Sea dispute during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan next week. However, there is no word yet if the Philippines will specifically ask Tokyo to join calls for China to stop its massive reclamation activities in disputed waters. Aquino will leave for Tokyo on June 2 for a state visit until June 5. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options