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New clashes erupt in Bahrain after marchers rally in support of king

Thousands of mourners called for the downfall of Bahrain's ruling monarchy and Friday prayer worshippers chanted against the king as anger shifted toward the nation's highest authorities after a deadly assault on pro-reform protesters. (Feb. 18)

The U.S. Embassy in Manama posted a notice on its Web site Friday urging American citizens living in Bahrain to stay in their homes until further notice. It said there were "confirmed reports of violent clashes including weapons fired between protesters and security forces in various parts of the city,'' suggesting that some of the demonstrators may have been armed.

Bahrain's crown prince, Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who is the son of Bahrain's king, made an unexpected appearance on Bahrain television Friday night as the fresh round of violence gripped the capital.

"I gave my message to the people, to everyone, to withdraw from the streets and calm down. We will all reach a joint point of view," he said.

A rattled interviewer replied: "I hope there is still time to correct things in this country. I hope that this will be the last of our grieving and the last of our unhappiness and this will all end soon. We want our country to be safe."

Earlier, there were conflicting reports of the violence, with some witnesses saying Bahraini troops shot at the protesters with live ammunition and others saying the troops fired heavy weapons into the air as warning shots. The use of tear gas and rubber bullets was also reported.

"A lot of casualties are being transported to the hospital," said Jasim Husain, a member of the Shiite al-Wefaq party, which withdrew from parliament Thursday to protest the government's crackdown.

Hospital officials said at least 20 people were injured, some seriously, the Associated Press reported. Ambulance sirens were heard throughout Manama.

The violence came after thousands of pro-government marchers rallied in Manama on Friday in support of Bahrain's king. Those marchers, many dressed in the red and white colors of the Bahraini flag, trooped along al-Fatih Highway through a solidly pro-government part of town.

As the pro-government crowd rallied, thousands of protesters marched and chanted anti-government slogans at funerals in the predominately Shiite villages on the outskirts of Manama for those who were killed in the government crackdown. Protesters used Twitter to urge people to attend the funerals.

Mourners at funerals and at Friday prayers called for toppling the monarchy in Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The United States last year provided Bahrain about $20.8 million in military assistance, a substantial amount for such a small country and almost double what it received in 2009. The majority of the funds went to pay for improvements to Bahrain's F-16 fighter fleet and to its navy's flagship frigate, supplied by the United States in 1996.

In the past, Bahrain has sent more than 100 police to Afghanistan to help build up that country's force. Overall U.S. counterterrorism aid to Bahrain doubled last year to almost $1.1 million.

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