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Bahrain protesters' camp stormed

Soldiers and riot police in Bahrain overran a protesters' camp, imposed a 12-hour curfew and choked off movement in the tiny island kingdom that has been rocked by a month of protests.

Witnesses described helicopters firing on homes in a hunt for Shiites and attacking doctors treating the wounded, while the government called the demonstrators "outlaws" for demanding an end to the monarchy.

The nation that once led the Middle East in entrepreneurial openness went into lockdown, its government propped up by troops from Sunni Gulf neighbours fearful for their own rule and the spread of Shiite Iran's influence.

The unrest that began last month increasingly looks like a sectarian showdown. The country's Sunni leaders are desperate to hold power, and majority Shiites want more rights and an end to the monarchy.

Wednesday's assault began in Pearl Square, the centre of the uprising inspired by Arab revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. But the violence that left at least five people dead on Wednesday did not stop in the capital.

Doctors at the country's main hospital said their facility was taken over by security forces, blocking physicians from either leaving or treating the wounded on site.

"There are many people injured, but we can't bring them to the hospital because of the travel restrictions, and doctors can't come to us," said Ali Marsouk, a resident of the Shiite village of Sitra, who said helicopters fired on homes in a three-hour attack.

Officials in the hospital said they took in 107 injured from Wednesday's violence. Nine were in critical condition, officials in the hospital said. The Salmaniya hospital also treated 322 people injured in clashes across the kingdom on Tuesday, the official said.

The king's announcement of a three-month emergency rule and the crackdown on Pearl Square sent a message that authorities will strike back in the strategic island nation, which hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

President Barack Obama called King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain to express deep concern over the violence. White House spokesman Jay Carney said MR Obama stressed the need for "maximum restraint."

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