MANAMA, Bahrain —
But a government statement said the only fatalities during the raid were two policemen who were "repeatedly run over by three vehicles containing protesters leaving the fringes of the scene." The Interior Ministry also policeman was killed late Tuesday.
The government did not say whether the offensive included soldiers from other Gulf nations.
State TV broadcast video showing military vehicles in the square flying Bahrain's red-and-white flag as security officials moved through the wreckage of the encampment, set up at the base of a towering monument to the country's history as a pearl diving center. The video showed the ground littered with debris, including satellite dishes and charred tent poles.
Helicopters crisscrossed over the square, which was cleared by security forces late last month but was later retaken by protesters after a deadly confrontation with army units.
During the attack, protesters fled for cover into side streets and security forces blocked main roads into Manama. Mobile phones were apparently jammed in central Manama during the height of the attack and Internet service remained at a crawl.
Hamid Zuher, a 32-year-old protester who slept at the square, said riot police first moved in on foot.
"They fired tear gas and then opened fire," Zuher said. "We lifted our arms and started saying 'Peaceful, Peaceful.' Then we had to run away."
The government presented a different story, saying security forces came under attack from about 250 "saboteurs" hurling gasoline bombs and later fired back with tear gas. It said no live ammunition was used.
In Shiite villages, people went to mosques and held protest prayers. Others lit fires in anger. Clashes were reported in other mostly Shiite areas of the country, where traffic was tightly controlled by military forces in an apparent attempt to prevent gatherings or a surge of people toward the capital.