Tanks and soldiers left the heart of Bahrain's capital as emergency rule was lifted Wednesday, but authorities warned they were not easing pressure on anti-government groups in the Gulf kingdom.
The military withdrew from the center of Manama but kept police at numerous checkpoints around the city.
Bahrain imposed emergency rule in mid-March, giving the military wide powers to suppress demonstrations led by the country's Shiite majority against the minority Sunni rulers. Shiites, who have long complained of discrimination and political persecution, were inspired to rise up by other revolutions sweeping Arab nations around the Middle East and North Africa.
At least 30 people have been killed since the protests for more rights and greater freedoms began in February in the Western-allied island nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. Bahrain invited 1,500 troops from a Saudi-led Gulf force to help suppress the unrest when emergency rule was imposed.
The Saudi intervention infuriated Shiite power Iran. It underscored the fears of Iran among Sunni-dominated Arab countries of the Middle East, particularly among Gulf Arab leaders who fear that gains by Bahrain's Shiites could provide an opening for Iran to expand its influence on the doorstep of rival Saudi Arabia.
The troops from Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf countries will remain indefinitely in Bahrain. They arrived to the kingdom in mid-March as part of the far-reaching crackdown that included hundreds of arrests of activists, journalists, political figures, athletes and Shiite professionals such as doctors and lawyers.
After the military withdrawal Wednesday, riot police were sent to Shiite-populated outskirts of the capital to disperse some gatherings. But it was not immediately clear whether government opponents were trying to stage new protests.
Dozens of police vehicles rushed to Diraz, a mostly Shiite village southwest of Manama that has long been the center of dissent before anti-government protests started. Heavy police presence was reported in other Shiite villages as people were leaving mosques after evening prayers.
Armored police vehicles and riot police were guarding Pearl Square in an apparent attempt to prevent opposition supporters from heading there to reclaim the former center of Bahrain's revolt.
The Justice Ministry on Tuesday called the demonstrations "criminal acts and abuses against the nation's security and unity" and warned that any further challenges will have "consequences." The sharply worded statement contrasted with a message from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa urging "unity talks" with protest factions beginning in July _ a gesture that falls short of opposition demands.
On Tuesday, just before emergency rule expired, Bahraini prosecutors questioned Shiite opposition leaders in a special security court set up as part of the crackdown on anti-government unrest.
Al Wefaq is the most influential of seven political groups in Bahrain's opposition movement.
Eighteen Al Wefaq party members were elected to the 40-seat lower house of parliament last year, although the legislators resigned from the body in March to protest the government crackdown.
The parliament is Bahrain's only elected body. It holds limited authority because all national decisions _ including the appointment of government ministers _ rest with the king.