Witnesses in Bahrain say thousands of anti-government protesters are streaming back in to Manama’s Pearl Square, after police retreated.
Some demonstrators waved flags and shouted “victory” Saturday as they moved back into the area, which is the symbolic center of the opposition movement.
News reports say police fired tear gas at demonstrators earlier Saturday in an effort to clear the square. They took action shortly after soldiers moved their tanks out of the area.
On Friday, at least 55 people were wounded when security force officers fired on mourners leaving a protester’s funeral. The mourners were trying to return to Pearl Square, in defiance of a government ban on protests.
Meanwhile, members of the opposition Wefaq bloc said Saturday that the current government must resign before it will consider negotiations that might end the protests. The block withdrew from parliament this week.
Bahrain’s crown prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, on state television Friday said he had been authorized by the king to start a dialogue with all parties.
The military had cleared the square of protesters on Thursday. Five people were killed in that raid and more than 230 were wounded.
Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and is also a regional offshore banking center. The royal family has long been a strategic ally of the United States in efforts to fight terrorism and counter Iran’s regional influence.