With the situation in Bahrain's Pearl Square turning deadlier today, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton telephoned her counterpart in the small Persian Gulf country to urge talks with protesters and a refrain from further violence.
“I emphasized how important it was, given that there will be both funerals and prayers tomorrow, that that not be marred by violence. I stressed the need to seriously engage all sectors of society in a constructive, consultative dialogue to meet the way forward in accordance with the aspirations of the people,” Clinton told reporters after briefing senators on Capitol Hill about the situation in Egypt.
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney's message was similar. “We oppose the use of violence by the government of Bahrain just as we'll oppose the use of violence by other governments in the region against peaceful protesters,” he said. “The government of Bahrain has the responsibility to maintain peace and security for its citizens and hold accountable those who use excessive force against demonstrators."
Bahrain is an important ally for the United States, serving as the headquarters for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is critical to Washington’s military presence in the region.
Earlier, riot police stormed a protest camp in Pearl Square, leaving several protesters dead and hundreds wounded. More than 600 people have been treated for their injuries in the hospital, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who is in Bahrain, told MSNBC’s "Daily Rundown."
“I've seen a lot of really wrenching things as a reporter, but the hospital today was just particularly heartbreaking,” Kristof said.
At least four were killed in the clash, according to an Al-Jazeera report.
Demonstrators, who have been camped out in the square since Tuesday, were attacked in an effort by the government to clear the area.
ABC reporter Miguel Marquez described the scene. “These people are not screwing around. They're going to clear that square tonight, ahead of any protest on Friday. The government clearly does not want this to get any bigger,” Marquez reported.
The U.S. continued its calls for Bahrain to engage with protesters in a nonviolent manner. After announcing $150 million in new aid for Egypt following 18 days of pro-democracy demonstrations culminating with the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, Clinton said she called her counterpart in Bahrain to convey concerns about the actions of the security forces.
Carney stressed that the U.S. is not seeking to dictate events in Bahrain, but said the Obama administration firmly stands behind the need to see certain universal values – such as the right to protest – protected in the country.
The U.S. Embassy in Manama put out a statement on today's events, urging Americans in the area to keep away from protests.
"We remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence," the statement said. "Please avoid these areas. If you encounter a large public gathering or demonstration, depart the vicinity immediately."
Rebecca Kaplan and Chris Strohm contributed. contributed to this article.