Jitters As Bahrain, Libya Bury Their Dead


Parts of the Middle East and North Africa are set for renewed displays of public anger toward their governments today, with the focus on Bahrain and Libya as protesters bury people killed in recent clashes.

Crowds have taken to the streets in Libya, Yemen, Iran and Bahrain over the last few days demanding at the very least more representation and at the most the overthrow of leaders.

The protests, inspired by popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt that saw veteran presidents of both countries driven out of office, have forced the authorities to react, sometimes with fatal consequences.

Thousands of anti-government protesters were on the streets of Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi early on Friday, a day after “day of rage” demonstrations led to fatal skirmishes with the security forces.

BBC radio, quoting an eyewitness, said protesters against Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades long rule had clashed with security forces, who were using guns, and doctors had counted the bodies of 10 people.

In Bahrain, troops in armored vehicles were in control of the capital after police firing buckshot and teargas pushed out hundreds of protesters early on Thursday who had camped out in central Pearl Square.

It was the worst violence in the Saudi-allied Gulf island kingdom in decades and a sign of the nervousness felt by Bahrain’s Sunni al-Khalifa royal family, long aware of simmering discontent among the country’s majority Shi’ites.

The sectarian aspect of the violence in Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, could fuel discontent among the Shi’ite minority in neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.

The unrest in the region helped push Brent crude prices to a 28-month high of $104 a barrel on Thursday and were a factor in gold prices extending early gains to five-week highs.

The funerals of four people killed in Thursday’s pre-dawn raid in Manama and of several killed in Libya were expected to be held on Friday and could well serve as a rallying point for protesters in both countries.

“There is going to be violence, there is going to be clashes,” a protester in Bahrain called Sayed told BBC television early on Friday of the planned funerals.

“Bahrain is going into a really dark tunnel,” he said, adding he feared for his safety. “If they (the authorities) knew my name, I might lose my job, I might lose my life.”

The army in Bahrain, a country of 1.3 million people of whom 600,000 are native Bahrainis, has issued a warning to people to stay away from the center of the capital and said it would do whatever was needed to maintain security.

Complete article via Reuters

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