MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The deputy chief of Bahrain's armed forces has ordered the military to withdraw from the streets of the capital.
Saturday's decision comes after the military opened fire on protesters trying to reach the site that was once the centerpiece of their uprising against the Gulf nation's rulers.
Army tanks are moving out of Manama's Pearl Square as Bahrain's monarchy seeks to open negotiations with protesters.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain's Shiite opposition on Saturday rejected any dialogue with the Gulf kingdom's Sunni royal family until "tanks are off the streets" and the army stops "shooting at peaceful protesters."
For days, protesters in Bahrain — a Western-allied Arab monarchy in the Persian Gulf home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet — have been calling for the toppling of the Sunni ruling elite.
Bahrain's security forces showed no hesitation in using force against demonstrators, killing at least five people during Thursday's raid on the protest encampment on Manama's Pearl Square.
The next day, dozens more were injured when the military opened fire on the thousands who defied the authorities by trying to march back into the landmark square.
Bahrain's king appointed Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa to lead a dialogue "with all parties." A senior member of Al Wefaq opposition block, Khalil al-Marzook, told The Associated Press the "atmosphere for dialogue is not right."
"How can we talk when the army is shooting at people asking for their rights peacefully?" al-Marzook said in a phone interview on Saturday. "We want good grounds for dialogue, but we first demand the army pulls tanks off the streets, stops shooting at peaceful protesters and allows people to gather and protest peacefully."
Al Wifaq's 18 Shiite lawmakers resigned from the 40-member parliament on Thursday to protest the killings in Pearl Square.
Protesters have said they are determined to take back the square on Saturday.
President Barack Obama discussed the situation with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, asking him to hold those responsible for the violence accountable. He said in a statement that Bahrain must respect the "universal rights" of its people and embrace "meaningful reform."
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