Friday, February 18, 2011

King calls for talks amid escalating violence

Bahrain's king has offered a national dialogue "with all parties" in an effort to resolve a crisis that has killed four people and wounded hundreds.

More than 60 people are in hospital undergoing treatment for wounds sustained when Bahraini security forces fired on protesters as they headed to Pearl Square on Friday.

The shootings occurred on a day of mass mourning when Shiites buried the four people killed a day earlier in the police raid on the Pearl Square traffic circle.

In response to protests against his government, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa announced the crown price had been granted "all the powers to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of all gracious citizens from all sections" in the national dialogue.

US president Barack Obama spoke with the king on Friday evening, condemning the violence and urging the government to show restraint.

Mr Obama said the stability of Bahrain, home to the US Middle East fleet, depended upon respect for the rights of its people.

Overnight, democracy protests were met with brute force not only in Bahrain but also in Libya, Yemen and Djibouti.

Streets were filled with tens of thousands of protesters demanding political reform and improved human rights conditions.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd also called on the authorities in Bahrain to respect the right of their people to protest peacefully.

He also says the Government in Bahrain needs to do more to meet the desire for political and economic reform in the country.

Australia has updated its travel advice for Bahrain, saying people should avoid all travel to the country.

Mr Rudd says there are about 1,000 Australians in Bahrain at the moment and they should stay away from any protests.

Protest ban defied

On Friday, thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets despite a government ban on protests.

Bahrain's opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif has told the BBC that troops have fired on protesters in the capital, Manama.

"Today people went to the graveyard to pay their respects for one of the first person who was killed three days ago," he said.

"And after they had paid their respects and prayed on the grave they went towards the Lulu roundabout - it's about three kilometres away from the village - and they approached the Lulu roundabout, about 300 metres. They were attacked by uniformed troops, the army."

Mr Sharif says the wounded have been taken to hospital.

"We understand there are about 22 injured people, including two in critical condition in the operation room," he said.

"The number was not very large - about a couple of thousand people - and the live ammunition had been used.

"I don't know what kind of ammunition but there are bullet wounds in the protesters."

The country's Crown Prince, Sheik Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, has appealed for calm.

"I express my condolences to all Bahrainis because of the painful days that we are living through," he said.

"I would like to address them with a message, a message of a citizen, a message for men to be calm.

"We need time to evaluate what happened and to regroup together again, and to restore our humanity, culture and future."

Benghazi uprising

In North Africa, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is facing an uprising in the coastal city of Benghazi and used security forces to hit back at protesters.

While information is difficult to get out of Libya, there have been reports of at least 46 deaths.

Journalists are not allowed to travel to Libya, but a Benghazi resident says authorities have warned of a fierce response to unrest.

"Anybody that they find the government kills. They'll check their ID, okay, and if they find out which family you're from they will go and imprison your family or they'll demolish your house," the resident said.

"This is what happened to five people in Benghazi."

Colonel Gaddafi's supporters have taken to the streets of the capital, Tripoli, to enforce the message.

In neighbouring Egypt the fallout from the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak is still being felt.

Huge crowds again packed Tahrir Square in Cairo for what is becoming a regular Friday demonstration of people power.


No comments:

Post a Comment