Battle Lines Harden Across Mideast, Africa


Security forces and government supporters employed a growing panoply of violent force — from tear gas and batons to shotguns and grenades — in pitched street battles with anti-government protesters in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen on Friday.

The clashes followed a week of deepening unrest as protesters, emboldened by the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, have called for swift revolutions in their own countries. The battle lines between protesters and authoritarian rulers across the Arab world appeared to be hardening, with governments turning to an increasingly brutal script in trying to quash the protests that have swept the region.

The severity of a Libyan crackdown on Thursday’s so-called Day of Rage began to emerge Friday when a human rights advocacy group said 24 people had been killed by gunfire and news reports said further clashes with security forces were feared at the funerals for the dead.

That apprehension also seized Bahrain, where mourners for some of the five people killed in an assault on a democracy camp a day earlier marched on Pearl Square and were fired on by security forces. The violence has pitted a Sunni minority government against a Shiite majority in the strategic island state that is home to the American Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

In the windswept Bahraini village of Sitra, south of Manama, thousands of Shiites gathered for more funerals of slain protesters, chanting “The people want the fall of the government” before noon prayers. No security forces were reported in the area, The Associated Press said.

In Yemen, protests appeared to grow larger and more violent in the city of Taiz, 130 miles south of the capital, where thousands of antigovernment protesters called for the ouster of President Ali Abullah Saleh and clashed with government supporters, news reports said. Reuters reported that a grenade exploded in a large crowd of protesters who had camped out since last Friday in the city’s Hurriya Square, killing at least one person and wounding many more.

Across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen thousands of demonstrators gathered on Friday in the tiny African nation of Djibouti to demand that the country’s president step down, after a series of smaller demonstrations seeking to capitalize on the wave of unrest, The Associated Press reported. A former French colony and a strong ally of the United States, Djibouti, like Bahrain, plays host to an American military base, the only one in Africa.

Clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators were reported in Amman, the capital of Jordan, The Associated Press reported. And in Kuwait, the police attacked about 1,000 members of the group known as bedouns who had gathered to demand greater rights, Bloomberg reported.

Complete article via New York Times

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