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Pearl Square monument torn down

Authorities in Bahrain have torn down the 300-foot monument at the heart of a square purged of Shiite protesters this week, erasing a symbol of an uprising that is inflaming sectarian tensions across the region.

The monument - six white curved beams topped with a huge cement pearl - was built in Pearl Square as a tribute to the Sunni-ruled kingdom's history as a pearl-diving centre.

It became the backdrop to the Shiite majority's uprising after protesters set up a month-long camp at Pearl Square in the capital, Manama.

Security forces overran the camp on Wednesday, setting off clashes that killed at least five people, including two policemen. At least 12 people have been killed in the revolt.

Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, said the army pulled down the monument because "it was a bad memory". "We are not waging war, we are restoring law and order," Khalid said at a press conference.

Shiite anger rose sharply around the Middle East on Friday as large crowds in Iran and Iraq cursed Bahrain's Sunni monarchy and its Saudi backers over the violent crackdown on protesters demanding more rights.

Amateur video footage of security forces shooting and beating protesters has spread across the internet and fuelled fury in predominantly Shiite Iraq and in Iran, where a senior cleric urged Bahraini protesters to keep going until victory or death.

Thousands of Bahrainis gathered for the funeral of Ahmed Farhan, a 29-year-old demonstrator who was killed on Tuesday in the town of Sitra hours after the king declared martial law in response to a month of escalating protests. Sitra, the hub of Bahrain's oil industry, has been the site of the worst confrontations.

"Brothers and sisters" in Bahrain should "resist against the enemy until you die or win," Iranian Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University, a nationally televised forum seen as expressing the views of Iran's ruling Shiite clergy.

Across Iraq, thousands of people rallied in mostly Shiite cities in the country's largest demonstrations since a wave of dissent spread across the Middle East in the wake of Tunisia's overthrow of its autocratic president.

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