Middle East seething with anger
Added At: 2011-02-17 9:53 PM
Last Updated At: 2011-02-18 9:53 PM
CAIRO: Libyan protesters seeking to oust longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi defied a crackdown and took to the streets in four cities today on what activists have dubbed a ‘day of rage’, amid reports that at least 14 demonstrators have been killed in clashes with pro-government groups.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said Libyan internal security forces also have arrested at least 14 people. Hundreds of pro-government demonstrators also rallied in the capital, Tripoli, blocking traffic in some areas, witnesses said.
An opposition website and an anti-Gadhafi activist said unrest broke out during marches in four Libyan cities Thursday. Organisers were using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to call for nationwide demonstrations. “Today the Libyans broke the barrier or fear, it is a new dawn,” said Faiz Jibril, an opposition leader in exile. Opposition website Libya Al-Youm said four protesters were slain by snipers from the Internal Security Forces in the eastern city of Beyida, which had protests yesterday and today. It’s not clear when the protesters were killed.
The website also said there was a demonstration today in Benghazi, Libya’s second-Largest city.
Switzerland-based Libyan activist Fathi al-Warfali said 11 protesters were killed in Beyida on Wednesday night, and scores were wounded. He said the government dispatched Army commandos to quell the uprising.
In Manama, Army patrols and tanks locked down the capital of this tiny Gulf kingdom after riot police swinging clubs and firing tear gas smashed into demonstrators, many of them sleeping, in a pre-dawn assault today that uprooted their protest camp demanding political change. Medical officials said four people were killed.
Hours after the attack on Manama’s main Pearl Square, the military announced a ban on gatherings, saying on state TV that it had ‘key parts’ of the capital under its control.
After several days of holding back, the island nation’s Sunni rulers unleashed a heavy crackdown, trying to stamp out the first anti-government upheaval to reach the Arab states of the Gulf since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
The move was a sign of how deeply the Sunni monarchy — and other Arab regimes in the Gulf — fear the repercussions of a prolonged wave of protests, led by members of the country’s Shiite majority.
Tiny Bahrain is a pillar of Washington’s military framework in the region. It hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is a critical counterbalance to Iran.