Senior Washington Correspondent
U.S. Embassy personnel in Bahrain have been ordered under lockdown in their homes and the State Department has advised all U.S. citizens to remain in their residences until further notice.
In a warden's message, the State Department said:
"There are confirmed reports of violent clashes including weapons fired between protestors and security forces in various parts of the city. Spontaneous demonstrations and violence are expected throughout the next several days. There is no indication that westerners are being threatened or targeted."
A State Department spokesperson in Washington said the American Embassy in Manama is always closed on Friday and Saturday for the weekend.
In the latest unrest spreading across the Middle East, soldiers in Bahrain fired tear gas and shot heavy weapons into the air as thousands defied a government ban and marched to protest discrimination by the Sunni monarchy against the country's Shiite majority.
Bahrain is a strategic island off Saudi Arabia in the oil-rich Persian Gulf and is the home port of the U.S. 5th Fleet.