Thursday, February 17, 2011

Protests and Deaths Rock Libya and Bahrain

Libya's Mumar Khadafi and the Bahraini regimes are both using deadly force to quell the protests that have sprung up in the wake of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

Reports of deaths in Libya mount.
There were reports of 16 deaths, but they could not be independently confirmed.

A text message sent out earlier on mobile phones had threatened Libyans planning to take to the streets, activists and bloggers said.

"From Libya's youth to anyone who dares to cross any of the four red lines come and face us in any street on the ground of our beloved country," the Short Message System dispatch said, referring to a speech by Saif el-Islam Gadhafi, Moammar Gadhafi's son, in which he described the lines as Islamic law, the Quran, Libyan security and his father.

They apparently did little to deter demonstrators. Protests in the isolated North African nation broke out this week, part of a larger anti-government movement sweeping the region.

Libya's regime has limited foreign journalists access to the country, which limits its coverage other than from reports and tweets from those inside the country trying to spread the word about the protests.

Bahrain is also racked by protests, and a US journalist was among those injured in melees between protesters and Bahraini security.
A US reporter for ABC News was beaten by thugs armed with clubs early Thursday while covering the unrest in Bahrain, the US network reported.

Correspondent Miguel Marquez was caught in the crowd and attacked while covering protests in Manama, ABC said.

Marquez, who said he was not badly injured, was clubbed while he was on the phone with his headquarters in New York describing the scene as riot police stormed through a Manama square in the dark in a harsh crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

"No! No! No! Hey! I'm a journalist here!" he yelled while still on the phone. "I'm going! I'm going! I'm going! I'm going! ... I'm hit."

He said that the thugs pulled his camera out of his hands.

"I just got beat rather badly by a gang of thugs," Marquez said in a later call to ABC headquarters. "I'm now in a marketplace near our hotel where people are cowering in buildings."
Bahraini security launched a brutal assault on the protesters using lethal force in the process:

The military moved forcefully to clear the main square where protests hoped to converge following the scene of protests in Tahrir Square. The military now occupies the square, leaving the protesters to find alternative locations and regroup for further demonstrations.

With the death toll rising, the demonstrations and protests are likely to be connected with the funerals of those killed by security forces. That's likely to be a rallying point against the Bahraini regime that has moved too slowly on political and economic reforms.

The brutality with which the Bahraini regime is putting down the demonstrations is heartbreaking to Nicholas Kristof, who writes:
The pro-democracy movement has bubbled for decades in Bahrain, but it found new strength after the overthrow of the dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt. Then the Bahrain government attacked the protesters early this week with stunning brutality, firing tear gas, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets at small groups of peaceful, unarmed demonstrators. Two demonstrators were killed (one while walking in a funeral procession), and widespread public outrage gave a huge boost to the democracy movement.

King Hamad initially pulled the police back, but early on Thursday morning he sent in the riot police, who went in with guns blazing. Bahrain television has claimed that the protesters were armed with swords and threatening security – that’s preposterous. I was on the roundabout earlier that night and saw many thousands of people, including large numbers of women and children, even babies. Many were asleep.

I was not at the roundabout at the time of the attack, but afterward at the main hospital (one of at least three to receive casualties) I saw the effects. More than 600 people were treated with injuries, overwhelmingly men but including small numbers of women and children.

One nurse told me that she was on the roundabout and saw a young man of about 24, handcuffed and then beaten by a group of police. She said she then watched as they executed him at point-blank range with a gun. The nurse told me her name, but I will not use full names of some people in this column to avoid putting them at greater risk.

Dr. Ahmed Jamal, the president of the Bahrain Medical Society, said that one doctor, Sadiq Ekri, a surgeon, had been badly beaten by riot police while attempting to treat the injured. Dr. Ekri has a suspected fracture at the base of his skull, according to Dr. Jamal.
Kristof also reports anecdotes that the Saudi military was involved in the military suppression of the protests and the bloody and violent nature of the suppression.

Bringing in foreign troops would also explain why things got so violent so quickly. The Saudis would have no connection to the protesters (as the Egyptian troops felt kinship with the protesters), and so wouldn't be aligned in interests. If this is confirmed, the Bahraini king brought in foreign troops to do his dirty work to stay in power.

Tanks seen in this video M-60s, which are older American-designed tanks. Both the Bahraini and Saudi military has significant numbers of this older tank.

There is supposedly video of Saudi tanks rolling across the causeway into Bahrain, but I can't locate that at the moment. Photos claiming Saudi tanks are rolling into Bahrain are also M-60 tank variants. I can't make out any identifying markings to say which army operates those tanks.

Yet, there are reports that the Saudis sent 150 tanks and personnel carriers into Bahrain via Qatar. Stay tuned.

Via Memri, there is additional confirmation that the Saudis are assisting the Bahraini regime crack down against the protesters - and it may be part of a strategy to keep the Saudi regime in place by thwarting protests in neighboring countries.

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