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mass demonstrations

Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix has taken place despite continuing anti-government protests and the race track has been heavily guarded by police, dogs and armored vehicles to keep activists away.

On Saturday, protests intensified after the body of a Shia activist killed in overnight clashes with security forces was discovered on a rooftop.

Many protesters wanted the race to be cancelled, but the government was determined it would go ahead.

West of the capital, Manama, demonstrators have set up barricades of burning tires.

Witnesses say police have set up checkpoints near the circuit and officers armed with pump-action shotguns are lining nearby roads.

Inside the circuit the atmosphere was relaxed, and it felt like any other grand prix in the calendar.

Ahead of the race Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa said that he was committed to reform in the kingdom.

“I also want to make clear my personal commitment to reform and reconciliation in our great country. The door is always open for sincere dialogue amongst all our people,” the king said in a statement.

King Hamad’s comments came after police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters who took to the streets on Saturday. Many of them had gathered near the village where anti-government demonstrator Salah Abbas Habib’s body was found.

Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix has taken place despite continuing anti-government protests

Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix has taken place despite continuing anti-government protests

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also called for restraint in dealing with protesters.

The protesters are demanding an end to discrimination against the majority Shia Muslim community by the Sunni royal family.

Ahead of Sunday’s race, armored vehicles patrolled the streets to stamp out any demonstrations.

Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, only went ahead with the Grand Prix after the government said it had security under control. The race was eventually won by two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Last year’s Bahraini Grand Prix was cancelled after 35 people died during a crackdown on mass demonstrations calling for greater democracy.

The Bahraini government, headed by the al-Khalifa dynasty, had been keen for this year’s race to go ahead to prove it had the 14-month uprising under control.

Staging the event has had the opposite effect, highlighting the small Gulf state’s political problems.

On Friday, Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa said cancelling the Grand Prix “just empowers extremists”, and insisted that holding the race would “build bridges across communities”.

FIA President Jean Todt said he had no regrets about the race. He said extensive investigations into the situation in Bahrain had unearthed “nothing (that) could allow us to stop the race”.

“On rational facts, it was decided there was no reason to change our mind,” Jean Todt said.

Shia protesters say going ahead with the race lends international legitimacy to a government that is continuing to suppress opposition with violent means.

Human rights groups and activists estimate that at least 25 people have died since the start of the latest protests, many as a result of what has been described as the excessive use of tear gas.

Meanwhile, the Danish ambassador visited hunger striker Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja – who also holds Danish citizenship – in hospital on Sunday, Bahrain’s BNA news agency said.

It said that the human rights and political activist was in “good health”. His family has consistently maintained that he is in a critical condition.

Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja has been on hunger strike for more than 70 days after being arrested for protesting against the government. He is now reported to be refusing water.

His daughter, Zeinab al-Khawaja, was also briefly detained amid protests on Saturday afternoon.

The visit by the Danish ambassador is fuelling suggestions that Abdul Hamid al-Khawaja will be stripped of his Bahraini citizenship and sent to Denmark.

Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja is scheduled to appear in court on Monday to appeal against his conviction and life sentence for plotting to overthrow the government.

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Trade unions in Nigeria have announced an indefinite strike and mass demonstrations unless the removal of a fuel subsidy is reversed.

The fuel subsidy’s withdrawal has led petrol prices to more than double since Monday, prompting anger countrywide.

“We have the total backing of all Nigerian workers on this strike and mass protest,” said the Nigeria Labour Congress’s Chris Uyot.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, but imports refined petrol.

Both the NLC and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) have agreed to the strike.

NLC spokesman Chris Uyot told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme there was no room for dialogue with the government, which has said it will spend the money saved by removing the subsidy on improving the country’s erratic electricity supply, as well as on health and education.

Trade unions in Nigeria have announced an indefinite strike and mass demonstrations unless the removal of a fuel subsidy is reversed

Trade unions in Nigeria have announced an indefinite strike and mass demonstrations unless the removal of a fuel subsidy is reversed

Prices have increased from 65 naira ($0.40) per litre to at least 140 naira in filling stations and from 100 naira to at least 200 on the black market, where many Nigerians buy their fuel.

“After exhaustive deliberations and consultations with all sections of the populace, the NLC, TUC and their pro-people allies demand that the presidency immediately reverses fuel prices to 65 naira,” a statement signed by the heads of the two unions said.

If the government failed to do so, “all offices, oil production centres, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets, banks, amongst others will be shut down” from Monday 9 January, the statement said.

“We advise Nigerians to stockpile basic needs especially food and water,” the statement added.

There has been a furious reaction this week to the fuel price increase – one protester was killed on Tuesday in Irolin, Kwara state, and thousands of Nigerians have demonstrated in cities across the country.

Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said the subsidy – which he said cost the government about $8 billion last year – was “unsustainable”.

“Subsides should be for production and not consumption,” he told Focus on Africa.

In December, the Nigerian government released a list of the people who benefit most from the subsidy, which include some of Nigeria’s richest people – the owners of fuel-importing firms.

Years of mismanagement and corruption mean Nigeria does not have the capacity to refine oil into petrol and other fuels.

Several previous governments have tried to remove the subsidy but have backed down in the face of widespread public protests and reduced it instead.

The IMF has long urged Nigeria’s government to remove the subsidy.