Scores killed as unrest spreads in Arab world (Roundup)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

DUBAI - Scores of people were killed and wounded as mass unrest demanding more freedom spread to Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan and Yemen forcing US President Barack Obama to advocate urgent reforms.

The worst hit were Libya, which Muammer Gaddafi has ruled since 1969, and the Gulf nation of Bahrain.

Renewed protests turned violent across Libya, with opposition activists saying dozens were shot dead during funerals and marches for those killed in anti-government demonstrations this week, DPA reported.

The protests against Gaddafi spread to capital Tripoli by Friday night. Many people took to the streets in western neighbourhoods.

Sources in the northeastern city of Benghazi told DPA that 25 protesters were killed Friday. Residents of Benghazi reported that police had been replaced with military troops.

Two protesters were killed in the northern city of Qubah, the opposition National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) said Friday.

Emboldened by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt that have sent the two countries’ long-term presidents fleeing, thousands of Libyans called for the ouster of Gaddafi.

In New York, Human Rights Watch put the death toll in three days of Libyan clashes at 84.

“Gaddafi’s security forces are firing on Libyan citizens and killing scores simply because they’re demanding change and accountability,” said Joe Stork, HRW deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

Obama spoke by telephone with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, urging “meaningful reform”, after security forces opened fire at hundreds seeking a better life.

Several protesters were injured in capital Manama Friday as the army used live ammunition near the central Lulu Square.

This happened a day after three people died and hundreds were injured in a fierce overnight crackdown on protesters camping in the square.

Obama told Bahrain’s king that the country’s stability “depends upon respect for the universal rights of the people and a process of meaningful reform responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis”.

Troops fired at anti-government protesters in Manama, wounding at least 66 people, as Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa asked his eldest son to start a dialogue to resolve the worsening political crisis.

The protests against the regime began a week ago.

Soldiers fired at demonstrators trying to march into the centre of Manama Friday after attending the funerals of four people killed in clashes between demonstrators and police that also left 50 wounded.

Many of the protesters in Manama, which has a Shia Muslim majority, have been calling for the overthrow of the Sunni Muslim royal family.

In Jordan’s capital Amman, eight people were injured in clashes between pro- and anti-government mobs.

Jordanians took to the streets Friday demanding constitutional reform and more say in decision-making, Al Jazeera reported.

About 2,000 pro-democracy protesters were holding a peaceful weekly demonstration in Amman when they came under attack from pro-government activists armed with batons, pipes and stones, Iran’s Press TV said.

According to medical sources, the injured, all pro-democracy protesters, suffered fractures to the skull, arms or legs.

King Abdullah II dismissed his cabinet earlier this month after massive street protests against the government’s economic and political policies.

In Yemen, about 7,000 protesters stormed into two government buildings and a police station in the southern port city of Aden and set them on fire.

The protesters gathered in the neighbouring Shaikh Othman town Friday, rushed to the two local council buildings and a police station and set them on fire, leaving several people injured, Xinhua reported.

Earlier Friday, an anti-government protester was shot dead and 40 were injured in Aden as police opened fire to disperse thousands calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave.

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