MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain's interior ministry warned on Friday that a planned march on the royal court was a threat to internal security and its forces would intervene to prevent widely expected clashes.
Hardline Bahraini opposition and youth groups were preparing to march toward the royal court on Friday, a demonstration that could spark fighting on the Gulf island where the majority is Shi'ite Muslim but the ruling family is Sunni Muslim.
The march would go through the Riffa area, where Sunnis and members of the royal family live, risking the first direct confrontation between the mainly Shi'ite protesters and royals.
In an unusually strong statement, the interior ministry said it would hold the organizers and participants of the protest responsible should any violence break out.
"The march that some people are trying to hold today to the Riffa area threatens security and social peace," it said.
"The interior ministry holds the organizers and participants of this march responsible for the consequences and reiterates the need to avert any confrontation among the residents that could result in unnecessary loss of life."
No more than a few hundred to a few thousand are expected to join the Bahrain march, but politicians and activists on all sides expect Sunni civilians to come out to block their advance.
"Under these conditions...the interior ministry confirms that forces to defend public order will be present to prevent any clash that may occur between the residents," it said.
"The interior ministry guarantees freedom of expression, but affirms at the same time that national responsibility means mutual respect among citizens to ensure national unity and aims to maintain social and civil peace."
(Reporting by Lin Noueihed, editing by Mark Heinrich)