250 Wounded in Yemen Clashes
Dozens were wounded Sunday when police used live rounds, tear gas and batons in a bid to break-up demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh in San’a and Taiz. About 10 people were hit by live fire, but most were suffering asphyxiation from tear gas, a doctor treating the wounded said. The renewed violence comes on the heels of an announcement by opposition leaders they would be proposing their own transition plan.
Saleh’s ruling party said of the plan, “We haven’t got it yet.” Meanwhile Saleh told supporters, “We call on the opposition to end the crisis by ending sit-ins, blocking of roads and assassinations, and they should end the state of rebellion in some military units. We are ready to discuss transferring power, but in peaceful and constitutional framework,” the besieged President added.
On Saturday, seven protesters were wounded in the Western port of Hudaida when riot police used batons and teargas to disperse demonstrators. Protesters said police fired live rounds and tear gas on Sunday to disperse them in Taiz.
Reports of the numbers of wounded exceeded 250.
Prominent Blogger Released in Bahrain
Bahrain released a prominent blogger but detained several other people, including a pro-opposition doctor, the latest in a series of arrests since a crackdown on protests, opposition sources said Friday. Abdul Khaleq Al Oraibi, who once considered running as a member of parliament for the largest Shiite opposition group Wefaq, had been publicly critical of the lack of access for medics to wounded protesters.
The tiny island kingdom’s Sunni rulers have stepped up arrests of cyber activists and Shiites, with more than 300 detained and dozens missing since security forces broke up pro-democracy street protests last month. They have also imposed martial law and called in troops from fellow Sunni-ruled neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, to quell the protest movement led mostly by the state’s Shiite majority.
Shots Fired in Oman
Omani police shot dead a protester on Friday in Sohar, in northern Muscat, when they opened fire to disperse demonstrators demanding the release of prisoners. It was the second death in the port during the current wave of unrest sweeping the region. Police killed a protester in February in Sohar, an industrial area 200 kilometres north of the capital Muscat.
The normally peaceful sultanate has been caught up in the general upheaval and protest movement in the Arab world, with people demonstrating for better living conditions, forcing Sultan Qaboos to announce a cabinet reshuffle and the creation of 50,000 jobs in early March. But demonstrators insist their protest was aimed at “corrupt” officials, not at the ruler, in power for 40 years.
Protests and Counter-Protests in Jordan
Hundreds of youths held a sit-in protest in Jordan’s capital on Friday to call for reforms, a week after clashes between them and government supporters killed a man and injured 160. About 50 government supporters gathered nearby, holding large pictures of King Abdullah II and expressing their “loyalty and allegiance” to the monarch. The king has condemned the violence and vowed to fight attempts to “sabotage” the country’s reform drive.
Syrian Protesters Brave Bloodshed
In Damascus, protesters braved renewed bloodshed and an unprecedented security presence across Syria on Friday as they marched in their tens of thousands to denounce their increasingly intransigent president. Opposition activists claimed as many as 25 people were killed as violence flared, despite Bashar al-Assad’s attempts to suffocate the widening uprising against his 11-year rule. At least eight protesters died in Douma, 15 kilometres north of the capital, when police opened fire after protesters emerging from a mosque pelted them with stones. An official denied any involvement by the security forces, blaming unidentified gunmen for shooting from rooftops.
Tahrir Square Redux
Egyptians demonstrated Friday, demanding former president Hosni Mubarak and other former officials be put on trial and calling for the ruling army council to end 30 years of emergency law.
Mubarak was toppled on Feb. 11, but reformers who drove the protests that brought him down are concerned by what they see as the lingering influence of elements from his administration. Activists called for Friday’s rally to “protect the revolution.”
One banner in Cairo’s Tahrir Square read: “The people want corruption put on trial to save the revolution.” They want tougher steps to recover assets they say Mr. Mubarak and others stole and seek deeper change in Egypt, now ruled by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, led by Mr. Mubarak’s former defense minister.
US Not Interested In ‘The Shores of Tripoli’
The United States will begin withdrawing its combat jets, missile ships and submarines from the operation to secure the no-fly zone over Libya, as the conflict appears to be descending into a stalemate between the two opposing sides. The move, announced by senior US military officials, comes amid increasing vocal skepticism from members of President Barack Obama’s administration over the capability and representative nature of the Libyan opposition.
Among the US planes being withdrawn are the A-10 Thunderbolt and AC-130 ground attack aircraft, which have been used to devastating effect against Muammar Gaddafi’s Armour. The number of US navy ships involved in the campaign had already shrunk to nine, compared with 11 at the start of the operation, and it is likely to shrink further in the days ahead.
As the US withdraws the two sides are deadlocked at the oil-town of Brega and Qaddafi has resumed his siege and shelling of the rebel city of Misrata. Rebel leaders, seeing food and medical supplies running out for civilians in Brega and Misrata offered a ceasefire. Qaddafi, whose forces hold the momentum and advantage in training and military hardware, declined the offer. This despite sources close to the dictator saying he is increasingly isolated and alone.
Also, 13 rebel fighters were killed in a coalition airstrike during the fighting at Brega.
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