Security forces fired on prodemocracy demonstrators Saturday in Libya as Muammar
Gaddafi’s autocratic regime struck back against the wave of protests that has
already toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia.
RELATED: Libyan forces storm protest camp in Benghazi 35 killed in crackdown on Libya protests
At least 15 died when
police shot into crowds of mourners in the country’s second largest city, a
hospital official said.
Libyans returned to the street for a fifth
straight day of protest despite estimates by human rights groups of 84 deaths in
the North African country – with 35 on Friday alone. In Benghazi, a focal point
of unrest and Libya’s second largest city, snipers fired on mourners as they
attended the funerals of other protesters, a hospital official said. He spoke on
condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Before dawn, special forces
had attacked hundreds of demonstrators, including lawyers and judges, who were
camped out in front of a Benghazi courthouse.
“They fired tear gas on
protesters in tents and cleared the areas after many fled carrying the dead and
the injured,” one demonstrator said by phone.
Authorities cut off the
Internet across Libya, further isolating the country. Just after 2 a.m. local
time in Libya, the US-based Arbor Networks security company detected a total
cessation of online traffic.
Protesters confirmed they could not get
Gaddafi is facing the biggest popular uprising of his autocratic
reign, with much of the action in the country’s impoverished east.
A female protester in Tripoli, the capital city to
the west, said it was much harder to demonstrate there. Police wereout in force and Gaddafi was greeted rapturously when he drove through town in a
motorcade on Thursday.
In neighboring Egypt, a moderate Islamic party
outlawed for 15 years was granted official recognition Saturday by a court in a
sign of increasing political openness after the fall of autocratic president
Al-Wasat Al-Jadid, or the New Center, was founded in 1996
by activists who split off from the conservative Muslim Brotherhood and sought
to create a political movement promoting a tolerant version of Islam with
liberal tendencies. Its attempts to register as an official party were rejected
four times since then, most recently in 2009.
In 2007, Human Rights Watch
accused Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic Party of using the law that
governs the formation of political parties to maintain a virtual monopoly over
political power in Egypt by denying opponents the right to form
The founder of the newly recognized party, Abu Al-Ila Madi, said
Saturday’s ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court was “a positive fruit of
the January 25 revolution of the freedom generation.”
Madi said his party
would immediately get to work organizing its membership and opening branches to
freely participate in Egypt’s political life.
Israel’s former head of
Military Intelligence, Maj.- Gen. Amos Yadlin, said Saturday that Egypt’s
apparent democratization need not necessarily be cause for concern for
In an interview with Channel 2 News, Yadlin said Israelis
should not “grow anxious over developments in Egypt. A hostile government in
Egypt would not necessarily go to war with Israel, and every Arab state has its
own characteristics, and we must treat each instance individually.
is no way to prophesy the intentions of leaders or their public,” Yadlin added.
“Elections in Egypt could well bring about a regime that will continue to take a
moderate stance toward Israel.”
An official with Egypt’s Muslim
Brotherhood said Friday that any decision on the country’s peace treaty with
Israel was up to the Egyptian people, and the Islamist movement would not impose
its view on them, Reuters reported.
“The decision on the treaty does not
belong to the Brotherhood, it belongs to the entire Egyptian people,” said Essam
Al-Erian, a spokesman for the Islamist group, in an interview with Al-Arabiya
In Jordan, meanwhile, clashes broke out Friday between
government supporters and opponents at a protest calling for more freedom and
lower food prices, injuring eight people in the first reported violence in weeks
It was the seventh straight Friday that Jordanians
took to the streets to demand more say in decision-making.
protest drew about 2,000 people, including hardline leftists, Muslim
conservatives and students calling for reduced power for the king and the chance
to elect members of the cabinet.
Students from the growing “Jaayin” or
“I’m Coming” movement chanted: “We want constitutional reforms. We want a
complete change to policies.”
Jordan’s king enjoys absolute powers,
ruling by decree and he can appoint and dismiss Cabinets and parliament whenever
“We want a complete overhaul of the political system, including
the constitution, the parliament dissolved and new free and fair elections
held,” said movement member and teacher Amani Ghoul, insisting the protests will
continue until their demands are met.
In Yemen’s capital of Sanaa, riot
police opened fire on thousands of protesters, killing one anti-government
demonstrator and injuring five others on a 10th day of revolt against President
Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key US ally who has been in power for three
As on other days earlier this week, protesters marching from
Sanaa’s university were met by police and government supporters with clubs and
knives who engaged in a stone-throwing battle with the demonstrators.
one point, police fired in the air to disperse the march.
official said one man was shot in the neck and killed. He spoke on condition of
anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
was the seventh this week in Yemen.
In a meeting with civic leaders,
Saleh said Yemenis have the right to express themselves peacefully and that the
perpetrators of the unrest were trying to seize power by fomenting
“The homeland is facing a foreign plot that threatens its
future,” Saleh said, without elaborating.
Saleh, a key US ally in
fighting al-Qaida terrorists, has tried to blunt discontent by promising not to
seek reelection when his term ends in 2013.
But he is facing a restless
population, with threats from al-Qaida militants who want to oust him, a
southern secessionist movement and a sporadic armed rebellion in the north. To
try to quell new outbursts of dissent, Saleh pledged to meet some of the
protesters’demands and has reached out to tribal chiefs, who are a major base of
support for him.
Popular unrest was felt in other Arab states as well. In
Iraq, several thousand people marched in the city of Sulaimaniyah to protest the
shooting deaths of two antigovernment protesters earlier in the week.
Oman, some 300 people marched peacefully in Muscat, the capital of a Gulf nation
with close military ties to the United States.
They demanded political
reform, including the resignation of several government ministers, but pledged
their loyalty to the hereditary monarch, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.
Algeria, police thwarted a rally by thousands of pro-democracy supporters in the
capital Algiers, breaking up the crowd into isolated groups to keep them from
An opposition lawmaker was hospitalized with a head injury
after he was clubbed by police. The march comes a week after a similar protest
brought thousands of protesters and riot police into the
Protesters seek sweeping political reform, including the ouster
of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and an end to the state of emergency imposed
in 1992 to put down an Islamic insurgency.
Critics complain of massive
corruption, high unemployment and social inequality.