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Protesters back in square at Bahrain capital

Bahraini protesters celebrates at the Pearl roundabout soon after the military pulled out in Manama, Bahrain, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011. The deputy chief of Bahrain's armed forces has ordered the military to withdraw from the streets of the capital. Army tanks are moving out of Manama's Pearl Square as Bahrain's monarchy seeks to open negotiations with protesters. (Hassan Ammar)

February 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Thousands of jubilant protesters streamed back into Bahrain's central square on Saturday following days of violent resistance by security forces.

The country's royal family was quick to use force earlier this week against anti-government demonstrators. However, they seemed to back away from further confrontation following international pressure from the West.

The demonstrators had emulated successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in attempting to bring political change to Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet - the centerpiece of Washington's efforts to confront Iranian military influence in the region.

Throngs of anti-government protesters took over the square earlier in the week, setting up a camp with tents and placards, but they were driven out by riot police in a deadly assault Thursday that killed five people and injured more than 200.

The government then clamped down on Manama by sending the tanks and other armored vehicles into the streets around the square, putting up barbed wire and establishing checkpoints to deter gatherings.

On Friday, army units opened fire on marchers streaming toward the square. More than 50 people were injured in the second consecutive day of clashes.

On Saturday, however, Bahrainis honked car horns, danced, sang, waved flags and flashed v-for-victory signs as the tanks moved away from the square.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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