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Middle East Protests: Facts About Bahrain (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 02/18/11 01:14 PM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 07:35 PM ET

Witnesses say Bahrain security forces have opened fire on anti-government protesters as the violence in Manama continues as part of a bold attempt to copy Egypt's uprising and to force high-level changes in its government.

Protesters are calling for the removal of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifah and for Prime Minister Khalifah bin Sulman al-Khalifah to step down, and the majority Shiites are demanding more power from Sunni-led government.

The violence has now thrust the small island country - known for its oil and pearls - into the international spotlight for reasons other than its tourism and relatively liberal climate. Though Bahrain is tiny, it is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet and, like Saudi Arabia, is one of the key U.S. allies in the Gulf region.

View facts about Bahrain here:

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The nation has a constitutional hereditary monarchy, which means the king, as chief of state, is guided by a constitution -- but his rights, duties and responsibilities are spelled out in written law or by custom. Bahrain has had only one Prime Minister since the country's 1971 independence, Khalifah bin Sulman al-Khalifah, the uncle of the reigning King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifah (see photo). Protesters are calling for the removal of King Hamad and for the prime minister to step down, and the majority Shiites are demanding more power from Sunni-led government.
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