MANAMA, Bahrain – Bahrain’s paramilitary National Guard deployed into new areas around the violence-wracked Gulf nation Saturday in an apparent sign that authorities are stepping up efforts to quell political unrest.
Wider use of the Guard could signal a tougher strategy by Bahrain’s Sunni embattled monarchy as riot police struggle to contain the Shiite majority’s 21-month uprising.
A government statement said the Guard — a force separate from the regular military — will be patrolling “strategic locations” that have been scenes of arson attacks and clashes.
Hadi al-Musawi, a spokesman for the main opposition group Al Wefaq, said Guard troops were seen setting up in Sitra, a center of the revolt. Previously, Guard forces have been used mainly at key sites in the capital Manama, including the landmark square that was the center of the protests in their first weeks.
Meanwhile, heavy clashes erupted Saturday after the funeral of a teenager killed in a traffic incident during a clampdown on marchers the day before. Opposition groups claim the boy was hit by a car while fleeing security forces, but officials say the incident had no connection to the police action.
More than 55 people have died in unrest in Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.