A top Bahraini police official is defending his force's decision to remove decorations marking Shiite religious commemorations and to crack down on those who confronted police over the move.

The Shiite opposition group al-Wefaq said several people were injured in the clashes outside the capital, Manama, on Tuesday after authorities took down banners and flags marking the Shiite Muslim commemoration of Ashoura.

Public security chief Maj. Gen. Tariq al-Hassan says in a statement sent Wednesday that authorities respect religious occasions including Ashoura. But he says decorations that hinder traffic flow and unrelated "political signs and decorations" will be removed.

He says police had to respond against "law breakers" who attacked police with Molotov cocktails and a homemade gun.