At least 10 killed as protests sweep Middle East

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DUBAI/MANAMA/TRIPOLI – At least 10 people were killed in Libya and Bahrain as people gathered in large numbers across the Middle East to protest against incumbent regimes. In Libya, six people were killed in clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in Benghazi city, opposition websites said, as the authorities countered a “Day of Anger” with a pro-regime rally in Tripoli.
The situation was calm early in the day in Tripoli, where a pro-regime rally was organised in Green Square, near the capital’s waterfront, with students being bused in to take part. Traffic was lighter than usual and the security presence on main roads slightly boosted, after text messages went out on Libya’s mobile telephone network warning against street protests.
The impact of Thursday’s protest calls was being seen as a test for Qaddafi, 68, who has been in power since 1969. His counterparts in neighouring Egypt and Tunisia have been toppled in uprisings over the past month. Qaddafi himself was seen on Libyan television on Wednesday night being mobbed by thousands of supporters as he laid the foundation stone of a sports complex for popular football club Ahly Tripoli.
Websites monitored in Cyprus and Libyan human rights group based abroad reported earlier that anti-Qaddafi protests in the eastern city of Al-Baida on Wednesday had cost as many as 13 lives. Meanwhile, Bahrain’s military deployed armoured vehicles in the heart of Manama and vowed to restore order after a violent crackdown on protesters in the early hours of Thursday left four people dead and scores wounded.
Enraged by the brutal crackdown, the largest Shia opposition bloc said it was planning to quit parliament while angry protesters gathered outside a hospital where victims were being treated to chant anti-regime slogans. Concerned that events in Bahrain could destabilise the entire region, Arab foreign ministers of the Gulf monarchies were to hold an emergency meeting Thursday in Manama, Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said.
Up to 95 protesters were wounded in the operation which was launched without warning at around 3am, opposition members and witnesses said. Bahrain’s opposition demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa’s government following the deadly raids. In Iraq, two protesters were killed on Thursday when security forces fired into the air to disperse an anti-government march in Sulaimaniyah, in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region, a doctor said.
In Yemen, at least 25 people were injured in a fifth straight day of clashes between pro- and anti-regime protesters in Sanaa, while the army deployed in force in the restive city of Aden.