Manama: Bahrain's king declared martial law on Tuesday as his government struggled to quell an uprising by the island's Shi'ite Muslim majority that has drawn in troops from fellow Sunni-ruled neighbour Saudi Arabia.
The three-month state of emergency will hand wholesale power to Bahrain's security forces, which are dominated by the Sunni Muslim elite, stoking sectarian tensions in one of the Gulf's most politically volatile nations.
Disturbances shook the kingdom through the day. A hospital source said two men, one Bahraini and the other Bangladeshi, were killed in clashes in the Shi'ite area of Sitra and more than 200 people were wounded in various incidents.
State television said a Bahraini policeman was also killed, denying media reports that a Saudi soldier had been shot dead.
The United States, a close ally of both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, said it was concerned about reports of growing sectarianism in the country, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. It dispatched Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Feltman to Bahrain to push for dialogue to resolve the crisis.
"One thing is clear, there is no military solution to the problems in Bahrain," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.
It was not clear if a curfew would be imposed or whether there would be any clampdown on media or public gatherings.
"In order for the situation to return to normal we have to establish order and security and stop the violations which have spread disturbances among the people of our dear country," said Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed al-Khalifa.
Bahraini state media have said Shi'ite opposition activists, who complain the state has been naturalising Sunni foreigners to tip the sectarian balance, are targeting foreigners.
The opposition says the security forces are full of naturalised foreigners willing to use force against protesters.
On Monday, more than 1,000 Saudi troops rolled into the kingdom at the request of Bahrain's Sunni rulers, flashing victory signs as they crossed. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar have said they would also send police.
Thousands of Bahrainis marched on the Saudi embassy in Manama on Tuesday to protest against the intervention.
"People are angry, we want this occupation to end. We don't want anybody to help the al-Khalifa or us," said a protester who gave his name as Salman, referring to the ruling family.