Bahraini police fired tear gas and birdshot at demonstrators on Wednesday (August 14), witnesses said, as protests called for by activists to press demands for democratic change in the U.S.-allied Gulf kingdom turned violent.

Activists have stepped up a two-and-a-half-year-old campaign to push the Sunni Muslim ruling family into allowing more democracy in the Shi'ite-majority state of 1.25 million people. Bahrain is an important U.S. regional ally against Shi'ite Iran.

Opposition figures had called on social media for mass rallies on Wednesday in Bahrain, prompting the authorities to tighten security and warn of tough measures and leading the United States to temporarily close its embassy.

There were no reports of serious injury in the clashes that erupted after sunset in a number of Shi'ite villages around the capital Manama.

In Shakhoora, a village west of the capital Manama, a standoff deteriorated into a clash between police on one side of a barbed wire fence they erected overnight and about 300 demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans on the other.

A witness said police charged the crowd, firing birdshot and tear gas. They said some people were overcome by tear gas but there were no reports of serious injury.

Presented by Adam Justice

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