Bahrain police have attempted to clear demonstrators over night who have been camped out in a square in the capital Manama.
Witnesses say at least three people have been killed and many more injured as riot squads broke up the camp while most of the protesters were asleep. Prior to the operation about 40 police trucks positioned themselves round the square.
Although earlier in the day relations were tense, the move does suggest a change in tactics by the security forces against the anti-government demonstrators.
Bahrain’s Shia Muslims – 70 percent of its population – have been ruled by a Sunni minority for the past three centuries.
Two people have already died in clashes in the last few days.
The mainly Shia protesters want greater political freedom, more jobs and a new constitution.
They had been hoping, by taking to the streets to emulate the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.