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Pop concert in Bahrain triggers violent protests
( 2003-10-23 11:12) (Agencies)

Bahraini Islamists fought pitched battles with police late on Wednesday during a protest against a concert by sultry Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram whose performance they deemed immoral.

About 200 protesters tried unsuccessfully to block streets leading to the concert in the capital Manama by setting fire to tires. They threw petrol bombs and rocks at police who fired teargas, forcing them into side streets.

Police vehicles chased groups of young demonstrators to prevent them from reassembling. A police officer at the scene refused to say whether there were any arrests.

The conservative Gulf Arab state's parliament rejected a proposal by some Islamist deputies this week to ban the concert by Nancy, whom they accused of flouting Islamic values with her "provocative" performance.

Nancy, a star in the Arab world, won a prize for best Arab female singer at a music video awards in Egypt this summer.

In Egypt, female parliament members recently joined Islamist deputies to demand a ban on the airing of Nancy's music videos, which are known for her slinky movements, newspapers said.

Pro-Western Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has seen some of the biggest and most violent demonstrations in the Gulf in the past two years over the U.S.-led war in nearby Iraq and American Middle East policy.

The U.S. embassy was firebombed during a 2002 protest against perceived U.S. support for Israel against the Palestinians. A Bahraini demonstrator was killed.

The demonstrations were mostly staged by the kingdom's Shi'ite Muslim majority which spearheaded bouts of unrest in the 1980s and 1990s against the Sunni-dominated government.

The small island state, the Gulf's banking and financial hub, has launched reforms including pardoning political prisoners and exiled activists.

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