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Bahrain Grand Prix Goes Ahead Despite Weekend Of Protests

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The Bahrain Grand Prix Has Seen Anti-Government Protests This Weekend | AP

The Bahrain Grand Prix went ahead on schedule on Sunday despite continuing clashes between pro-democracy demonstrators and security forces.

Red Bull Racing's Sebastien Vettel won the race after starting from pole position. Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Roman Grosjean were second and third, respectively.

Violent disturbances had been intensifying in recent days ahead of the race with around 50,000 anti-government protesters gathering around the capital Manama, just 25 miles away from where the controversial event was under way.

Opponents have fought pitched battles with security officials, with claims surfacing yesterday that protester Salah Habib Abbas, 37, was killed by shotgun pellets fired by riot police on a rooftop during an overnight raid.

Despite the ongoing violence, Fahad al Binali, spokesman for the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority, was confident the event would not be affected.

He told the BBC: "Guaranteeing is difficult, but we have the best measures in place. I'm very confident and assure everybody about safety."

David Cameron had resisted pressure to call for the cancellation of the event, insisting it was a matter for the F1 authorities.

Petrol bombs had been hurled at security officials, tyres set ablaze and anti-grand prix graffiti daubed on walls in ugly scenes which have marred the Gulf kingdom in recent days.

Meanwhile, riot police have used rounds of tear gas and pepper spray to disperse throngs of protesters who are demanding democracy and the cancellation of the race.

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa claimed that cancelling the race would "empower extremists".

He added: "For those of us trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the race allows us to build bridges across communities, to get people working together. It allows us to celebrate our nation."

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had earlier insisted it was down to the Bahrainis to cancel their grand prix.

Amnesty International said human rights violations are continuing in the Gulf kingdom despite government promises that the country is on the road to reform.

In a recent report, the campaign group said security forces were still using excessive and unnecessary force against anti-government protesters.

The 2011 race was cancelled as international criticism grew over the bloodshed and the Foreign Office has advised British motor racing fans against travelling to this year's event.

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