BAHRAIN: Foreign minister tweets criticism of protesters
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Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa has been using Twitter to air his views on evolving unrest in the region, eventually disputing accounts of attacks by security forces on peaceful protesters in Bahrain.
‘This is no peaceful protest,’ he tweeted Wednesday. ‘This is a deadly weapon.’
Al-Khalifa appears to have launched his Twitter account (which is verified) last May, writes in English and describes himself as a ‘Diplomat, ambassador, foreign minister of Bahrain, reader, world traveler, bon vivant.’ He has about 10,000 followers. Before the unrest in Bahrain, the tone of his tweets was mostly light, as Al-Khalifa discussed everything from Packers games to WikiLeaks.
By contrast, Bahrain’s Ministry of the Interior launched its account last Sunday, which consists mostly of street closures at the moment due to ongoing protests.
Last month, as protests flared in Tunisia and Egypt, Al-Khalifa appeared to support demonstrators.
‘Aspirations of the people of Egypt are the core of what should be achieved in light of recent events,’ he tweeted Jan. 31.
‘Worried about my Twitter friend @Ghonim... A true example of a young Arab leader... Hope he is safe and sound,’ he wrote Feb.1, referring to one of the Egyptian protest leaders, Google executive Wael Ghonim, who had been detained.
‘Called the new FM of Tunisia Ahmad Wnayyes...Congratulated him and pledged support to him and dear Tunisia,’ he wrote later the same day.
But Al-Khalifa appear to take a different view of protests in his own country.
On Monday, when the first death was reported, he wrote: ‘One person died today . MOI opened investigation .. With Sh Rashid at its helm, I am confident truth will prevail.’
On Wednesday, he linked to a photograph that showed a protester hurling a molotov cocktail at police on Monday.
‘Better not jump to conclusion and blame police,’ he wrote. ‘Reports suggest police coming under attack by mob with swords. That to not confirmed.’
On Thursday, Al-Khalifa told reporters Bahraini police did what they had to do.
‘The country was on the brink of a sectarian abyss,’ Al-Khalifa said at a news conference. ‘It was a very important step that had to happen. Police took every care possible.’
He told Bloomberg that the deaths of at least three protesters were ‘unfortunate.’
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske