Monthly Archives: February 2011

More Skirmishes in Libya as U.S., Europe Ratchet Up Pressure

Forces loyal to Moammar Gaddafi carried out airstrikes and skirmished with rebels in parts of Libya on Monday, as European and U.S. officials took steps to pressure the longtime leader to resign.

In an interview with Western reporters, Gaddafi said he could not step down because he is not a president or king, and he asserted that there have been no demonstrations against him in the capital, Tripoli, ABC News reported Monday. “My people love me,” ABC’s Christiane Amanpour quoted Gaddafi as saying. “They would die for me.” She said Gaddafi denied ever using force against his people, accused al-Qaeda of encouraging youths to seize arms from military installations and said he felt betrayed by the United States. “I’m surprised that we have an alliance with the west to fight al-Qaeda, and now that we are fighting terrorists they have abandoned us,” he said. “Perhaps they want to occupy Libya.” (Washington Post) Gaddafi called President Obama a “good man” who might have been misinformed about Libya. “The statements I have heard from him must have come from someone else,” ABC quoted Gaddafi as saying. “America is not the international police of the world.” (Washington Post) Wearing brown tribal garb and sunglasses, the Libyan leader gave the interview at a restaurant on a seaside road in Tripoli, ABC said. Also participating were reporters for the BBC and London’s Sunday Times.

In Washington, the Treasury Department announced that it has frozen $30 billion in assets belonging to Gaddafi, his relatives and loyalist officials in the largest such action by the United States. Referring to Gaddafi’s assertion that his people love him, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “He should get out of his tent and see what is really happening in his country.” (Washington Post)

In Zawiya and Misurata – the two opposition-held cities closest to the capital, Tripoli – rebel forces were reported locked in standoffs with Gaddafi loyalists. Anti-government forces in Misurata, 131 miles east of Tripoli, fired at a helicopter that was trying to attack the antenna of the local radio station Monday, residents said in telephone interviews. The helicopter was armed with missiles but flew away in the direction of Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, farther to the west, after opposition supporters opened fire on it, an eyewitness said. It was the third time in as many days that helicopters have attempted to attack the antenna or the radio station, the residents said. On Saturday, a helicopter offloaded six to eight soldiers near the site of the radio station in an apparent bid to seize it. But they were attacked by armed regime opponents, who have secured weapons from one of the town’s military barracks, residents said. They said the attackers managed to escape, leaving their weapons behind. Another helicopter that approached the radio antenna on Sunday was chased away by gunfire, a witness said.

Although Misurata was overrun by protesters last Thursday, Gaddafi loyalists are still holding out at an airbase and a barracks on the edge of the city, and there are daily clashes between the two sides, residents said. “An aircraft was shot down this morning while it was firing on the local radio station. Protesters captured its crew,” a witness told Reuters by telephone. “Fighting to control the military air base started last night and is still going on. Gaddafi’s forces control only a small part of the base.” (Reuters)

In Zawiya, 27 miles west of Tripoli, residents were anticipating a possible attack by pro-regime troops. “Our people are waiting for them to come,” one resident, who would not give his full name, told the Associated Press. “And, God willing, we will defeat them.” (Washington Post)

A helicopter attacked a military weapons depot Monday in Heniya, just outside Ajdabiya, a town about 100 miles south of Benghazi, said Idriss Sharif, an adviser to the management committee in Benghazi. A fighter pilot from the air force base in Benghazi, an opposition stronghold 630 miles east of the capital, said weapons and ammunition have been moved from storage units in case of a strike on the base. Over the past few days, the air force here has been setting up antiaircraft weapons to protect against airstrikes on this town that has become the center of resistance against Gaddafi’s regime.

At 4 p.m. Monday, another airstrike hit just south of the airport, slamming into a weapons depot in Rajma village, an official at the Benina airport outside the city said. It followed an airstrike in the same area about six days ago, the official said. Most of the weapons had already been taken by people in the village, he said. Earlier in the day, fighter jets were circling over the airport but did not strike, the airport said.

In Washington, Pentagon officials said Monday morning that they are repositioning air and naval assets in the Mediterranean to support plans now under discussion for contingencies ranging from humanitarian assistance to Libya to imposition of a “no-fly zone” to prevent Gaddafi loyalists from carrying out airstrikes. Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said no decisions have yet been made to take any specific action, and administration officials have said that any move would be made in coordination with international allies. A no-fly zone could utilize U.S. planes flown from bases in Italy or from aircraft carriers offshore from Libya. Lapan said there are no U.S. aircraft carriers currently in the Mediterranean, although two are now in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf area. “We’re still in that planning and preparing mode should we be called upon to do any of those types of missions, whether humanitarian and otherwise,” Lapan said. (Reuters)

In Tripoli’s Tajura district, which has been the scene of frequent clashes, mourners leaving the funeral of a person shot last week marched down a main street chanting anti-Gaddafi slogans, a witness said. But they quickly dispersed once a group of government loyalists rushed to the scene. “When the protesters reached the Souk Juma (market), they were joined by armed men from the Gaddafi battalion who were dressed as civilians and opened fire on the unarmed youths. Many among the youths were wounded and killed,” the Libyan newspaper said. (Reuters)

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters in Tripoli that government forces had fired on civilians but said this was was because they were not trained to deal with civilian unrest. He said the government was still in control of Zawiyah, even though reporters who were taken there at the weekend saw a town center under rebel control. “What you saw was only the center,” he said. “We allowed, we let these people with their guns to stand there. Zawiyah has not fallen. The government could have easily killed them and has not done so, because the government has not been bloody.” (Reuters) At a news conference for foreign journalists invited to Tripoli, Mr. Ibrahim denied reports that Colonel Gaddafi’s loyalists had turned their guns on hundreds of civilians. “No massacres, no bombardments, no reckless violence against civilians,” he said, comparing Libya’s situation to that of Iraq before the American-led invasion in 2003. But Mr. Ibrahim insistsed that Libya still sought some kind of gradual political opening as suggested by the colonel’s son, Seif al-Islam el-Gaddafi. “We are not like Egypt or Tunisia,” the spokesman said. “We are a very Bedouin tribal society. People know that and want gradual change.” (New York Times)

In Europe, the European Union voted to impose tough sanctions on Libya while Gaddafi remains in office. And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that Gaddafi “must be held accountable” for the brutal crackdown on protesters that, watchdog groups say, has left hundreds – perhaps thousands – dead. Britain’s Cameron, speaking in the parliament in London, urged Gaddafi to step down and said all measured would be considered to pressure him to go. “We do not in any way rule out the use of military assets,” Cameron said. “I have asked the Military of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff to work with our allies on plans for a military no-fly zone.” (Reuters)

France said it was sending medical aid. Prime Minister Francçois Fillon said planes loaded with doctors, nurses and supplies were heading to the rebel-controlled eastern city of Benghazi, calling the aircraft “the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories.” (New York Times) Mr. Fillion told broadcasters that the French Government was studying “all solutions to make it so that Colonel Gaddafi understands that he should go, that he should leave power.” (New York Times)

The popular revolt that has already seen Gaddafi’s opponents claim the eastern half of the country spread deeper into the west on Sunday, with rock-wielding residents expanding control over key towns even as loyalists forces appeared poised to counterattack or impose blockades.

With his 41-year rule of the nation at large failing, Gaddafi sought to reinforce his position in Tripoli, his stronghold, by literally doling out cash to citizens and vowing huge raises for public workers, residents said.

Firmly in the hands of the opposition, eastern Libya is moving to form its own interim government centered in the country’s second city, Benghazi, and vowing to send a force against Gaddafi in Tripoli. Top opposition organizers, though, were immediately at odds over who would lead the vast portions of Libya outside the government’s reach.


“Day of Rage” Protests Turn Violent in Iraq

At least 19 people were killed in Iraq on Friday as tens of thousands defied an official curfew to join a nationwide “Day of Rage,” echoing protests that have roiled the Middle East and North Africa since January.

Despite pleas by the government and Shiite religious leaders for Iraqis to stay home, demonstrators gathered by the hundreds and thousands from Basra in the south to Mosul and Kirkuk in the north. Protesters expressed anger and rage at local leaders as well as at Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, storming provincial government offices in several cities and calling for more jobs, electricity and clean water, better pensions and medical care.

Security forces used tear gas, water cannons, sound bombs and at times live bullets to disperse the crowds. Fatalities were reported in Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit and a town near Kirkuk, when security forces opened fire on demonstrators who were surrounding – or in some cases storming – government buildings. There were also clashes in Ramadi. In the southern province of Basra, about 10,000 demonstrators forced the resignation of the provincial governor. In Fallujah, protesters forced the resignation of the entire city council.

In Baghdad, where Maliki imposed a curfew that banned cars and even bicycles from the streets, people walked, often many miles, to reach the city’s Tahrir Square. Several thousand had gathered by early afternoon. Surrounded by hundreds of police, soldiers and rooftop snipers, with military helicopters buzzing overhead, protesters waved Iraqi flags and signs reading “Bring the Light Back” (a reference to the lack of electricity), “No to Corruption!” and “I’m a Peaceful Man.”

Many said they were protesting for the first time. Among them was Selma Mikahil, 48, who defiantly waved a single 1,000-dinar bill in the air. “I want to see if Maliki can accept that I live on this!” she yelled, referring to her pension, the equivalent of $120 every five months. “I want to see if his conscience accepts this!” (Washington Post)

“We want a good life like human beings, not like animals,” said Khalil Ibrahim, 44, one of about 3,000 protesters in Baghdad. (CBC)

“We don’t want to change the government, because we elected them, but we want them to get to work,” the Associated Field Press news agency quoted one 24-year-old student as saying. “We want them to enforce justice. We want them to fix roads. We want them to fix the electricity. We want them to fix the water.” (BBC)

Another man told Reuters he had walked for two hours from the poorer district of Sadr City to attend. “People are hungry. We ask the government to find job opportunities for the young. All my sons are unemployed, I’m here to express the injustice that we live in,” he said. (BBC)

Protesters circled the square and then surged down a road toward the bridge leading to Maliki’s offices, where a row of giant concrete blast walls had been erected overnight to block them. At one point, protesters began pushing against the walls, managing to open a crevice and push through. Witnesses said a soldier shot one protester in the stomach, and people began to hurl rocks over the wall after that.

Though demonstrators mostly called for reform and an end to corruptions, there were calls here and there for Maliki to step down. Many said they were shocked by the “indefinite” curfew on cars and bikes imposed late Thursday night, saying the government’s attempts to prevent them from demonstrating only motivated them more. “The government is afraid of the nation!” said engineer Sbeeh Noman, who said he walked 12 miles to reach the square. “They have found out that the people have the real power. We have it.” (Washington Post)

“No one can stop me,” said Ali Mushin, 28, an unemployed lawyer. “If you want your freedom, you have to get it, even if it’s at the end of the world.” (New York Times)

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad downplayed the protest-related violence and the impact of the curfew, saying that Iraq’s security forces “generally have not used force against peaceful protesters.” (Washington Post) The spokesman, Aaron Snipe, noted that Maliki had “affirmed” people’s right to demonstrate, and said the prime minister “also urged people to stay home due to the security threat from terror organizations… We support the Iraqi people’s right to freely express their political views, to peacefully protest, and seek redress from their government,” Snipe said. “This has been our consistent message in Iraq and throughout the region.” (Washington Post)

In Mosul, six people were killed and 21 injured after security guards opened fire on a large crowd gathered in front of the provincial council building to demand jobs and better services. Abdulwahid Ahmed, head of Al Salam Hospital, said all of the dead and injured had been shot.

In a suburb of Fallujah, six civilians were killed when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators trying to break into a local government building, according to security officials there.

In Tikrit, four protesters were killed and 15 injured when security forces shot demonstrators gathered at a provincial governor’s office. The crowd was demanding that detainees be released from prisons and chanting slogans against Maliki. “Get out! Get!” they yelled, as local authorities looked down on them from the building’s balconies. (Washington Post)

And in Hawija, near the troubled northern city of Kirkuk, police opened fire on demonstrators who eventually took control of a local police station, confiscating weapons and freeing 15 prisoners, according to a local police source, who requested anonymity. At least three people died, according to Major Abbas Mohammad Al-Jibouri, a local security officials.

Protest organizers had hoped Friday’s demonstrations would inject a fresh concept into the exercise of Iraq’s fledging democracy: peaceful expression of discontent. They insisted their goal was to demand a better government, not a new one. But the days leading up to the protests were defined by anxiety and the increasingly familiar features of Maliki’s bare-knuckle governing style.

On Tuesday night, security forces ransacked Iraq’s nonprofit Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, which is supporting the protest, carrying off computers, hard drives and files. On Wednesday, hundreds of soldiers and police began fortifying Tahrir Square, checking IDs and photographing the smattering of protesters who had begun unfurling banners reading “No to bribes!” and “The oil money is for the people!” (Washington Post)

Maliki, who had begun the week welcoming the protest, urged people in a televised speech Thursday to stay away. He said the event seemed “suspicious” and was likely to be infiltrated by al-Qaeda or perhaps loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party or “terrorists” seeking to opt it for their own purposes. (Washington Post)

Mr. Maliki’s appeals came a day after the populist cleric Moktada al-Sadr returned to Iraq from Iran and cautioned against protesting, asking Iraqis to have more patience with the government. “They are attempting to crack down on everything you have achieved, all the democratic gains, the free elections, the peaceful exchanges of power and freedom,” he said. “So I call on you, from a place of compassion, to thwart the enemy plans by not participating in the demonstrations tomorrow, because it’s suspicious and it will give rise to the voice of those who destroyed Iraq.” (New York Times)

Soldiers set up checkpoints blockading many Baghdad neighbourhoods. Near midnight Thursday, a red banner flashed across state television broadcasts announcing the curfew, a draconian measure more often deployed to deal with insurgent attacks. Still, many of the young protesters said they were undeterred, and proved it by walking for hours to get to the protest sites.

“It’s definitely a shrewd move,” said Zaid al-Ali, who was a legal adviser for the United Nations in Iraq from 2005 to 2010, dealing with constitutional and parliamentary issues. “They don’t want there to be a large turnout, because it coincides with the movements in the rest of the region, and they don’t want their people to build momentum.” Still, he said, Friday’s events would have an important bearing on Iraqi politics over the next six months. “Either there will be a large turnout, and the government will react by improving services or cracking down on the people,” he said, “or the government will continue to ignore the people and public anger will simmer.” (New York Times) Mr. Ali said that larger waves of unrest could still erupt in the months ahead, when scorching summer temperatures and regular power outages put the government’s faults on sharp display. “If you look at Iraqi history, all the revolutions and public unrest have started in the summer,” he said. “With the heat getting worse, the lack of electricity and the fact that Iraqis know how well others are living better in neighbouring countries, they will be much more likely to take to the streets. On top of that, they know about how successful protests have been in Tunisia, Egypt, and maybe Libya.” (New York Times)

The Iraqi government was formed in December, nine months after an inconclusive national election. This is the second elected government in the nearly eight years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.


Scores Killed, Many More Missing in New Zealand Earthquake

Rescue workers spent a cold, rainy night searching through rubble for survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch, on Tuesday, killing at least 65 people.

Photographs and video from Christchurch, a graceful 19th-century city of nearly 400,000 residents, showed people running through the streets, landslides pouring rocks and debris into suburban streets and extensive damage to buildings.

Witnesses told of watching the spire of the iconic Christchurch Cathedral come crashing down during an aftershock. One witness called it “the most frightening thing of my entire life,” and television video showed a person clinging to a window in the cathedral’s steeple. (New York Times) Some witnesses reported seeing people inside the Christchurch Cathedral when its spire collapsed, but it was not clear if anyone was killed.

Videos from the scene by 3 News New Zealand showed emergency crews pulling shaken and injured victims from damaged buildings, including one four-story structure, the Pine Gould Guinness building, which was nearly flattened. The top three floors of the building, a 1960’s-era structure, had collapsed as terrified workers huddled under desks. Video showed one woman clinging to the roof as emergency workers raised a crane to rescue her. “There was a guy on the second floor who was buried up to his waist in concrete and stuff,” one man, who escaped the Pine Gould building, told 3 News. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” (New York Times)

In another building, residents rappelled to safety from a broken window after a stairwell in their 17-story building collapsed.

The Associated Press and other news outlets reported that up to 23 Japanese exchange students were trapped in their language school, which was located inside the devastated CTV building in downtown Christchurch.

“The earthquake itself was quite violent, a lot of movement,” said Jason Tweedie, a 40-year-old Christchurch resident who was sitting in his four-wheel drive vehicle when the earthquake struck. “It felt like there were about 10 people shaking the side of it, all at once, it was so much force.” (New York Times) The force of the earthquake pushed thousands of gallons of water and silt into the streets, Mr. Tweedie said, and in some places the road appeared to open up and swallow several cars in his beachside neighbourhood of New Brighton.

Julian Sanderson was in his apartment on the first floor of an old brick movie theater when the walls and ceiling began to crumble around him. “When it all stopped, I had to kick out the front door to get out,” Mr. Sanderson, 41, said by telephone, standing in front of his nearly collapsed building. “I used to work in that building making furniture, but everything has just changed. What we have now is the clothes that we’re wearing.” (New York Times)

Trapped under her office desk, Anne Voss told a New Zealand TV station: “I rang my kids to say goodbye. It was absolutely horrible. My daughter was crying and I was crying because I honestly thought that was it. You know, you want to tell them you love them, don’t you?” (BBC) She said she could hear other people alive in the building, and had called out to them.

One Christchurch resident, Jaydn Katene, told the New Zealand Herald: “We’ve had friends in town call us and say there are lots of dead bodies outside shops just lying there just covered in bricks.” (BBC)

John Gurr, a camera technician, told Reuters news agency the area was “like a war zone.”

A man trapped on the 12th story of a Christchurch building told how aftershocks rumbled through the damaged building, rattling the nerves of the 19 other co-workers trapped on the same floor. “Every aftershock sends us scrambling, it doesn’t take much to set us off,” Gary Moore told CNN by phone from the 17-story Forsyth Barr Hotel. “But the stairwells have collapsed and we are just looking into a void. We’re fine but we are badly shaken. We’re just playing the waiting game and letting loved ones know we’re okay. We watched from the building as our cathedral collapsed and a five-story building. We’ve got 10 people here from our office and another 10 people from an adjoining office. Someone has written on the pavement that help is on its way. We’re doing our best to jolly people along,” he said. “The language was a bit rich when it first hit.” (CNN)

“It felt like I was running on jelly,” Gavin Blowman said. “We saw a giant rock tumble to the ground from a cliff – a rock that had been there for millennia. It fell on the RSA (Returned Services Association, a veteran’s association) building – it was terrifying.” He said there were now fears that a tsunami could hit in the wake of the quake and that he and another 20 people were trying to get to higher ground. (CNN)

Olivia Harris of Vancouver Island, who is studying radiology at a Zealand Hospital in Christchurch, was doing a phone interview with CBC News when a powerful aftershock hit Tuesday. “I’m right in the middle of the road so nothing can really fall on me,” Harris said, adding that at the hospital there was pandemonium. “The influx of patients just coming in… such a fast rate. There was doctors rushing into the hospital saying, ‘I’m a doctor, how can I help? How can I help?’” (CBC) Eventually, Harris said, she made her way home but was too frightened to sleep inside, so she spent the night camping on her lawn.

Eleisha McNeil of Toronto, who is also in Christchurch, said that her street was a “sea of mud and water that’s bubbled out of the ground” Tuesday and that she felt some aftershocks. She was home with her husband and baby when the initial quake hit Monday, bouncing her all over the house. “The noise was astounding. Everything that could fall down, did fall down.” (CBC)

Officials warned that the death toll was likely to rise as scores of people were still missing and feared trapped in the wreckage of several buildings that were flattened by the 6.3 magnitude earthquake or the aftershocks still rocking the city. Officials gave no clear estimates of how many people might have been trapped in the rubble, and there were conflicting reports about the number missing in the chaos late Tuesday.

“I think we need to prepare ourselves in this city for a death toll that could be significant,” Mayor Bob Parker told reporters shortly after declaring a state of emergency and ordering the evacuation of the city center. “It’s not going to be good news, and we need to steel ourselves to understand that.” (New York Times)

Hundreds of frightened residents crammed into temporary shelters. Mr. Parker warned residents to prepare for a night without electricity and running water. Food and drinking water were being brought into the city overnight, he said.

The rescue mission was further complicated by repeated strong aftershocks and wet, chilly conditions overnight. News agency reports said trapped office workers used their cellphones to send out maydays.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said that 350 military personnel had been deployed to help with search and rescue efforts. “The government is willing to throw everything it can in the rescue effort. Time is going to be of essence,” Mr. English said. (BBC) The government has accepted an offer of specialist help from Australia, whose rescuers are due to arrive in New Zealand.

The Red Cross has been trying to find accommodation for people sheltering outside in tents or under plastic sheeting. A number of makeshift triage centers and emergency clinics were set up across the city to handle the influx of injured people. Officials said the city’s largest medical facility, Christchurch Hospital, was bracing for multiple casualties. Some victims have been airlifted to hospitals outside the earthquake zone. By Tuesday afternoon, officials said there were no ambulances available in the city, all were tied up with urgent calls. Video from the scene showed office workers loading their injured colleagues into station wagons and four-wheel drives because of the lack of emergency vehicles.

The Christchurch Airport was closed and said on its Web site that it would reopen Wednesday morning only for domestic flights. All the schools in Christchurch are closed until further notice, as expert teams are assessing any potential damage to the buildings.

Prime Minister John Key said the extent of the devastation was unknown, but that New Zealand had witnessed “its darkest day,” and one of its worst natural disasters. “It’s an absolute tragedy for this city, for New Zealand, for the people that we care so much about,” he told TVNZ, the national television broadcaster. “People are just sitting on the side of the road, their heads in their hands. This is a community that is absolutely in agony.” (New York Times) Mr. Key held an emergency cabinet meeting before heading to the disaster zone. “We paid a very heavy price here.” (BBC)

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who is also New Zealand’s head of state, said in a statement she had been “utterly shocked” by the news. “My thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this dreadful event,” the statement said. (BBC)

The earthquake hit the country’s South Island just before 1 p.m. local time, and the United States Geological Survey said it was part of an aftershock sequence from a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that rocked the same area in September, but caused no casualties. “There is more substantial damage to buildings than there was during the original earthquake,” the civil defence minister, John Carter, told reporters in the capital, Wellington. Tuesday’s tremor was centered about six miles down from Christchurch, and was only about three miles underground, possibly making it more destructive. Though it was shorter in duration and lower in magnitude, many residents said the earthquake felt more violent than September’s. The quake caused 30 millions of ice to break off the Tasman glacier. It is the biggest glacier in New Zealand, about 200 kilometers from Christchurch.

Several news outlets reported extensive devastation to the nearby seaside town of Lyttelton, nearest the epicenter of the quake. According to the Associated Press, the earthquake dislodged 30 million tons of ice from the Tasman Glacier in the Southern Alps that slid into a lake, creating waves up to 11 feet high. The A.P. also reported that an American delegation of 43 government, business and community leaders in the city for a United States New Zealand Partnership Forum meeting were thought to be safe. It said that nine congressmen attended the meeting had left the city before the disaster.

In Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it had no reports of any Canadians affected by the earthquake. Speaking to reporters in Victoria Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the situation was affecting him personally because he and his wife Laureen have friends there whom they have not been able to contact since the quake hit. Laureen Harper also lived there for a time when she was younger. Harper said he has been in contact with the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, and pledged assistance. However, Harper didn’t say anything specific about what Canada would contribute. Earlier Wednesday, Harper issued a statement extending his “deepest sympathies” to those who lost loved ones in the quake. “The thoughts and prayers of Canadians are with all those affected by the earthquake. Canada is standing by to offer any possible assistance to New Zealand in responding to this natural disaster,” the statement said. (CBC)


Renewed Clashes Hit Libya Capital

Security forces and protesters have clashed in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, for a second night, after the government announced a new crackdown. Witnesses say warplanes have fired on protesters in the city. To the west of Tripoli, sources say the army is fighting forces loyal to ruler Moammar Muammar Gadhafi, who appears to be struggling to hold on to power. Libya’s deputy envoy to the UN has called on Moammar Gadhafi to step down, and accused his government of genocide.

The diplomat, Ibrahim Dabbashi said that if Moammar Gadhafi did not relinquish power, “the Libyan people will get rid of him.” (BBC) “It’s a matter of time,” he told CNN. “I don’t know how long it will last, but it will be soon.” (CNN) “Whenever people are getting to the streets, whenever they are demonstrating peacefully, the army and militias are shooting at them,” he told CNN on Monday. But Gadhafi “cannot survive” this uprising, Dabbashi said.

Moammar. Gadhafi has now lost the support of almost every section of Libyan society, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne from neighbouring Egypt. Reports from several cities across Tripoli suggested much of the country was slipping from Moammar Gadhafi’s grip.

Foreign journalists work under tight restriction in Libya, and much of the information coming from the country is impossible to verify. But the regime has accepted that eastern cities such as al-Bayda and Benghazi – traditional pockets of residence to the government – are now under the control of the opposition.

The unrest had not touched Tripoli until Sunday, when hundreds of protesters flooded the streets, only to be suppressed by security forces.

On Monday, state TV reported a renewed operation had begun against opposition elements. “Security forces have started to storm into the dens of terror and sabotage, spurred by the hatred  of Libya,” the Libyan TV channel reported. (BBC) An eyewitness in Tripoli told the BBC he could see people being shot down by aircraft. Another eyewitness in the capital said the suburbs of Fashioom and Zawiyat al-Dahmani had been cordoned off by security forces. Protesters were out on the streets, and flames and smoke could be seen rising from the areas, the witness said.

“It was an obscene amount of gunfire,” a witness told The New York Times. “They were strafing these people. People were running in every direction.” The police stood by and watched, the witness said, as the militiamen, still shooting, chased after the protesters. (New York Times)

“The shooting is not designed to disperse the protesters,” said one resident, who wanted to be identified only as Waleed, fearing for his security. “It is meant to kill them… This is not Ben Ali or Mubarak,” he added, referring to the deposed leaders of Tunisia and Egypt – Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. “This man has no sense of humanity.” (New York Times)

Libyan’s from other cities – Bengazhi and Misrata – were reported to be heading to Tripoli to join the battle against the government forces, Said Mansour O. El-Kikhia, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of Texas at Austin, who had talked to people inside the country. “There are dead on the streets, you cannot pick them up,” he said by email. “The army is just shooting at everybody. That has not deterred people from continuing.” (New York Times)

Fashioom is one of Tripoli’s poorest areas, and a BBC correspondent in the city says there are fears that many people may have died in the clashes. Witnesses estimated more than 50 people had been killed in Tripoli since Sunday.

Before the unrest spread to the capital, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch estimated 233 people had been killed, but other campaign groups said the figure was much higher.

Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, later told state media that there had been bombing raids near Tripoli and Benghazi, but said they had targeted ammunition stores and no civilians were hit. In an earlier TV address, Saif al-Islam warned that the protests could lead to civil war, and vowed that the regime would “fight to the last bullet.” (BBC) “We have a very dangerous decision to make,” said al-Islam. “We are all the same, we all have weapons, we are all Libyans, and this is our country. our homeland.” (CNN)

Gadhafi made a brief 40-second television appearance early Tuesday to announce he was still in charge, denying reports that he had fled the country in the face of the spreading revolt. Speaking to a state television reporter in front of his Tripoli home, Gadhafi said he wanted to show people “that I am in Tripoli, not in Venezuela. Don’t believe those dogs in the media.” (CNN)

Amid turmoil on the streets, senior officials have begun to desert the regime. Justice Minister Mustapha Abdul Jalil quit the government because of the “excessive use of violence,” the privately owned Quryna newspaper reported. (BBC) Libya’s envoy to the Arab League, Abdel Moneim al-Honi, announced he was “joining the revolution.” (BBC) Libya’s deputy ambassador to the U.N. called the crackdown “genocide,” adding, “The mass killing has reached a stage where no one can stay silent about it.” (CNN) And several diplomatic missions reportedly said they were pledging allegiance to the people of Libya rather than the Gadhafi government.

U.S. ambassador Ali Aujali said he could no longer represent a government that killed its own people. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said the U.S. joined the international community in “strongly condemning the violence in Libya… Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed,” she added. (BBC) “The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly,” Clinton’s statement said. (CNN)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “outraged” at reports that the Libyan authorities had been firing at protesters from military aircraft, and warned that such action would constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law, a spokesperson said. “He once again calls for an immediate end to the violence.” (BBC) Ki-Moon said he had urged Moammar Gadhafi in a 40-minute phone call to halt the escalating violence. EU foreign ministers released a statement condemning the “ongoing repression against demonstrators,” and said they deplored the violence and death of civilians. (BBC)

Some European ministers have voiced concern that there could be a wave of illegal immigration, after Libya threatened to break co-operation on controlling the flow of Tunisians to Italy. Meanwhile, Maltese officials say two Libyan fighter jets have landed there after the pilots asked for asylum because they were ordered to bomb civilians.

The violence has helped push up oil prices to their highest levels since the global financial crisis of 2008. International firms including BP, one of the world’s largest oil companies, are preparing to pull their staff out of Libya.

Canadian companies are keeping a watchful eye on the unfolding chaos. There are reports that some employees are being escorted out of the country for their own safety. Oil and gas titan Suncor Energy Inc. and engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. are two of the largest Canadian-based companies with operations in the region. “Some work on certain projects is temporarily suspended,” a spokesman for SNC-Lavalin said. “All [projects] remain under supervision, and we will continue to monitor the situation to determine the next steps. The health and safety of our employees, as always, remains our primary concern,” the company said. (CBC) SNC-Lavalin operates numerous infrastructure projects in the country, including airports and water facilities.

CBC News has also learned that Winnipeg native Elizabeth Atkinson, a geophysicist for Suncor stationed in Tripoli, has been removed from her work site along with her Moammarleagues for safety reasons. “Things have changed quite a bit,” she told her family in a voicemail message. “Petro-Canada has decided a few hours ago that they’re evacuating us.” Petro-Canada was merged with Suncor in a $43-billion deal in March 2009. “We are ensconced in an ex-pat compound. We are no longer living out in the community,” Atkinson said. (CBC)

“In the interest of the safety and security of our people, we do not provide details or status commentary on contingency plans,” Calgary-based Suncor spokesman Brad Bellows said. “Suncor has contingency plans to ensure the safety of our staff in all countries and regions in which we operate. This obviously includes Libya, where we are [monitoring] and responding to events.” (CBC)

Other foreign firms have already started an exodus. Anglo-Dutch energy titan Shell PLC is in the process of evacuating several dozen employees from its lone exploratory gas drilling site in the country. Multinational rival BP said it is “very likely” to do the same thing in the coming days.

Libya is a major player in the energy industry. With 44 billion barrels of proven or provable reserves, it is Africa’s largest oil producer. The country earns more than $46 billion a year from oil, which makes up 95% of Libyan exports.

Crude oil prices were sharply higher on Monday due to the volatility. European benchmark Brent crude hit a three-year high of $105.28 U.S. a barrel, up $2.70 on the day. The comparable North American benchmark, the March light, sweet crude contract, was as much as $5.10 U.S. higher to $91.30 before retreating.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said there are an estimated 500 Canadians in Libya and about 350 have registered with the Canadian Embassy in Tripoli. He said about 50 were working for Canadian energy firms. Cannon said there are no immediate plans for a government evacuation of Canadians from the country.


Security Forces in Bahrain Open Fire on Mourners

The Bahraini military fired live ammunition at anti-government demonstrators Friday, inflicting casualties on marchers who tried to reach the scene of a deadly crackdown the day before, witnesses said.

Hundreds of predominantly Shiite anti-government protesters were marching toward a public hospital following a funeral for a demonstrator who was killed Thursday when riot police overran a protest encampment at Pearl Square. The procession then suddenly diverted toward the square, which protesters had sought to turn into this tiny kingdom’s equivalent of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of demonstrations that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt last week.

At Pearl Square, army armoured personnel carriers had been parked all day to secure the area and prevent protesters from reaching the site. “The APCs came, three or four of them, and started firing shots,” Mazen Mahdi, a Bahraini photojournalist who was accompanying the procession, said in an interview. “The first was a warning shot in the air. But after that, they just opened fire at the people.” (Washington Post) Mahdi described the shooting as live fire from machine guns. After about 30 minutes, the police, who had retreated to let the APCs approach, returned and fired tear gas, dispersing all demonstrators from the area. Mahdi said he saw ambulance crews being prevented from reaching the site. “They shot at the ambulances when they came in,” he said. (Washington Post)

“They are just shooting us. Now there is more than 20 injured people in the hospital,” a witness told al-Jazeera TV. “One guy has already passed away because he got shot in his head.” (BBC)

One protester, 27-year-old bank clerk Ali al-Haji, told AP news agency that live ammunition was used. “People started running in all directions and bullets were flying. I saw people getting shot in the legs, chest, and one man was bleeding from his head,” he said. (BBC)

“The regime has broken something inside of me,” said Ahmed Makki Abu Taki, whose 23-year-old brother Mahmoud was killed in the pre-dawn sweep through Pearl Square’s protest camp. “We used to demand for the prime minister to step down, but now our demand is for the ruling family to get out,” he said. (CBC)

“Our demands were peaceful and simple at first,” Mohamed Ali, 40, a civil servant, said as he choked back tears. “We wanted the prime minister to step down. Now the demands are harsher and have reached the pinnacle of the pyramid. We want the whole government to fall.” (CBC)

There was no statement from the military, but an official at the Interior Ministry sent a text message to Bahrainis Friday night urging them to stay indoors.

As of around 8 p.m., there were approximately 50 riot police cars on the Pearl Square roundabout, a resident who lives above the square said. “We did hear gunshots fired,” the resident, who declined to be identified by name, said by telephone. (Washington Post)

At the main public hospital, Salmaniya, three people were undergoing surgery for serious head injuries, and many more were arriving with less serious wounds, witnesses said. CNN reported that four people were killed, but that could not be confirmed. Witnesses said the Salmaniya hospital was overwhelmed with wounded and that casualties were being diverted to private hospitals around the capital.

The U.S. Embassy in Manama posted a notice on its Web site Friday urging American citizens living in Bahrain to stay in their homes until further notice. It said there were “confirmed reports of violent clashes including weapons being fired between protesters and security forces in various parts of the city,” suggesting that some of the demonstrators may have been armed. (Washington Post) Bahrain’s crown prince, Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who is the son of Bahrain’s king, made an unexpected appearance on Bahrain television Friday night as the fresh round of violence gripped the capital. “I gave my message to the people, to everyone, to withdraw from the streets and calm down. We will all reach a joint point of view,” he said. (Washington Post)

Earlier, there were conflicting reports of the violence, with some witnesses saying Bahraini troops shot at the protesters with live ammunition and others saying the troops fired heavy weapons into the air as warning shots. The use of tear gas and rubber bullets was also reported. “A lot of casualties are being transported to the hospital,” said Jasim Husain, a member of the Shiite al-Wefaq party, which withdrew from the parliament Thursday to protest the government’s crackdown. (Washington Post)

Hospital officials said at least 20 people were injured, some seriously, the Associated Press reported. Ambulance sirens were heard throughout Manama. “The hospital resuscitation room was in chaos,” Dr. Ali Ebrahim, the deputy chief of staff at Salmaniya Hospital told CBC News.

The violence came after thousands of pro-government marchers rallied in Manama on Friday in support of Bahrain’s king. Those marchers, many dressed in the red and white colours of the Bahraini flag, trooped along al-Fatih Highway through a solidly pro-government part of town.

As the pro-government crowd rallied, thousands of protesters marched and chanted anti-government slogans at funerals in the predominately Shiite villages on the outskirts of Manama for those who were killed in the government crackdown. Protests used Twitter to urge people to attend the funerals. Human Rights Watch said it appeared security forces fired as the “crowd neared the roadblocks” set up on Thursday. “The victims said the scene was peaceful and that there was no warning issued before the forces opened fire using tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. They said the attack did not last long because people immediately started running away.” (CNN)

Mourners at funerals and at Friday prayers called for toppling the monarchy in Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The United States last year provided Bahrain about $20.8 million in military assistance, a substantial amount for such a small country and almost double what it received in 2009. The majority of its funds went to pay for improvements to Bahrain’s F-16 fighter fleet and to its navy’s flagship frigate, supplied by the United States in 1996.

In the past, Bahrain has sent more than 100 police to Afghanistan to help build up that country’s force. Overall U.S. counterterrorism aid to Bahrain doubled last year to almost $1.1 million. Much of that money likely went to police and military forces that are suppressing the current protests. In its annual report on foreign military aid, the State Department said the anti-terrorism assistance was used to “develop the capabilities that the Bahraini police are using in Afghanistan, and in Bahrain will contribute to other forms of counterterrorism with Bahrain.” (Washington Post)

The pro-government marchers Friday – predominately Sunni Muslim Bahrainis and the expatriates from countries such as India and Pakistan – carried pictures of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa and chanted slogans in favour of their continued rule. Land Rovers, Lexuses and Range Rovers honked their horns as they crawled by the rally, which was broadcast live on Bahrain state television.

“This is a lovely country. It’s like a dream,” said one Indian man wearing a Bahraini flag draped down his back like a cape and carrying a large photo of the king. The man, Abdul Kareem, said he works in the Interior Ministry and has lived in Bahrain for 30 years. “We love the leadership. They are providing the best life in the world, not only for the countrymen but for the expatriates,” he said. (Washington Post)

One man said demonstrators would keep up the effort. Asked if he was afraid for his life, he said, “There would be nothing more honourable than to be killed fighting for freedom for my country.” (CNN)

Earlier, the country’s most senior Shia cleric Sheikh Issa Qassem described attacks on protesters as a “massacre” and said the government had shut the door to dialogue. As he spoke at emotionally charged Friday prayers in the Duraz neighbourhood, supporters shouted “victory for Islam,” “death for Al Khalifa” and “we are your soldiers.” (BBC)

Outside Manama’s Grand Mosque, government loyalists held their own rallies. Men wearing traditional white robes arrived for prayers with Bahraini flags draped over them. “We must protect our country,” said Adnan al-Qattan, the cleric who led Friday prayers. “We are living in dangerous times.” (CBC)

In the government’s first public comment on the crackdown, Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa said Thursday it was necessary because the demonstrators were “polarizing the country” and pushing it to the “brink of sectarian abyss.” (CBC)

President Obama said Friday that he was “deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen,” as he condemned harsh government responses to peaceful protests. In a statement issued by the White House while he was visiting the West Coast, Obama urged the three countries “to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests, and to respect the rights of their people.” (Washington Post) “The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,” he said. (BBC)

The UN’s rights chief Navy Pillay condemned the use of force by governments across the region, and singled out the Bahraini authorities for targeting medical workers while they were treating protesters. “The nature and scope of the human rights violations taking place in several countries in the region in response to those who are largely demonstrating peacefully for their fundamental human rights and freedoms is alarming,” she said. (BBC)

In Britain, the Conservative-led coalition government on Friday decided to revoke a series of weapons sale licenses to Bahrain and Libya after coming under heavy criticism for striking such deals with Arab governments that are now cracking down on protesters. The “urgent” policy review came after London approved recent sales to Bahrain of 250 tear gas canisters, crowd-control ammunition and equipment for use in aircraft cannons, assault rifles and other weapons.


Politicians Demand Execution of Iran Protest Leaders

Iranian lawmakers denounced Monday’s protests in Tehran and called for the execution of two opposition leaders for inciting the demonstrations, Iran’s sate-run Press TV reported Tuesday. Members of the Iranian parliament issued fiery chants against opposition leaders and former presidential candidates Mehdi Karrubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi.

Press TV aired video Tuesday of lawmakers chanting “Moussavi, Karrubi… execute them.” (CNN) Lawmakers also named former President Mohammad Khatami in some of the death chants.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei said: “those who created public disorder on Monday will be confronted firmly and immediately.” (Reuters)

Clashes broke out between security forces and protesters when thousands rallied in sympathy for popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. They revived mass protests that shook Iran after a presidential vote in 2009. Kazem Jalali, a member of parliament, told the student news agency ISNA that two people were killed at a banned opposition rally in Iran. “At Monday’s rally… two people were martyred and many were wounded; one person was shot dead,” Kazem Jalali was quoted as saying. (Toronto Star) An opposition website said that at least 1,500 people were arrested while taking part in the banned protests.

“The efforts of the Supreme Leader were focused on trying to bring Mousavi and Karroubi back into the folds of the revolution,” Jalali said. “But these persons have purged themselvesfrom the system. The parliament demands the strongest punishment for Mousavi and Karroubi.” (Washington Post)

The calls for the leaders’ executions come after a particularly deadly month in Iran. At least 66 people were executed in January, according to Iranian media reports. Most of the executions were reportedly carried out for drug offenses, although at least three involved political prisoners, a U.N. statement said.

“Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Houssein Mousavi are corrupts on earth and should be tried,” a statement signed by 221 MP’s asserted. “We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment.” (BBC)

A spokesman for Mr. Moussavi said the protests showed that the so-called Green Movement, formed to challenge the disputed election in 2009, had scored a “great victory” and was “alive and well” despite a huge government crackdown when the government quashed dissent through the shooting of demonstrators, mass trials, torture, lengthy jail sentences, and even executions of some of those taking part. (New York Times)

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed alarm earlier this month over the number of executions.

Iranian leaders have praised Egypt’s revolution, but Monday when protesters in Iran took to the streets the government cracked down hard. Last week, the Iranian government rounded up activists after Karrubi and Moussavi called for supporters to gather at Azadi Sqaure, the site of mass protests by Iran’s opposition movement after the disputed 2009 presidential elections.

Despite the security crackdown, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Tehran Monday. Patrolling security forces battled protesters with batons and tear gas for much of the day. The massive crowd was largely cleared from the city’s streets by nightfall and the main squares near Tehran University remained free of police, security forces or protesters. Dozens of demonstrators were detained during Monday’s protests, while videos posted showed others had been chased and beaten. One person was shot and killed during the protests, according to Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency. Several others were injured and listed in serious condition as a result of the shooting, which the Iranian government blamed on “agitators and seditionists.” (CNN)

The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that nine security force members were among those injured in the protests, which the country’s deputy police chief called “illegal gatherings… directed from America, England and Israel…. The hands of sedition leaders are drenched in blood and they should answer for these actions,” Ahmad Reza Radan said, according to IRNA. (CNN)

Video uploaded to YouTube showed throngs of demonstrators marching, burning protesters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and in one instance beating a man who appeared to try to remove a poster from the hands of protesters. Other YouTube video showed police in riot gear pursuing dozens of people running away from the baton-wielding officers. Other videos show similar protesters going on in other cities in Iran such as Shiraz and Isfahan. CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the videos and witnesses declined to be named for fear of retribution.

Reporting from Iran proved extremely difficult Monday – foreign journalists were denied visas, accredited journalists living in the country were restricted from covering the demonstrations and internet speeds slowed to a crawl in an apparent attempt to both limit protest organizing and restrict information from being transmitted out of the country.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, released a statement Tuesday urging Iranian officials to “fully respect and protect the rights of other citizens, including freedom of expression and the rights to assemble peacefully.” (CNN)

President Mashmoud Ahmadinejad has said the opposition protests seen in Iranian cities on Monday are “going nowhere” and vowed to punish their organizers. Mr. Ahmadinejad told state television that “enemies” were trying to “tarnish the Iranian nation’s brilliance.” (BBC)

The Parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, accused the United States and its allies of providing support to the opposition following uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. “The main aim of Americans was to simulate the recent events in the Middle East in Iran to divert attention from those countries,” Mr. Larijani said, according to state radio. (New York Times) Deputy Police Chief Ahmadreza Radan said, “We have information… that America, Britain and Israel guided the opposition leaders who called for the rally.” (Reuters)

US President Barack Obama sharply criticized the authorities’ response. “The world is changing,” Obama said in a message directed at autocratic rulers across the region. “You have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity… You’ve got to get out ahead of change; you can’t be behind the curve.” (Toronto Star) Obama was asked at a White House news conference about the mood of changes sweeping the Middle East in sympathy with the opposition victory in Egypt. “I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully,” he told reporters on Tuesday. Mr. Obama said the US could not dictate what went on inside Iran, but hoped people would have the “courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedom and a more representative government.” (BBC) Obama said that with the advances in freedom of communication through smart phones and Twitter, it is more true than ever that governments must recognize that they must act with the consent of the people.

“We would hold to account the Iranian government, which is once again using its security forces and resorting to violence to prevent the free expression of ideas from their own people,” Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton said Monday. “We support the universal rights of the Iranian people,” Clinton said. “They deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and that are part of their own birthright.” (CBC)

Not long afterwards, Iran’s president dismissed the protests in Tehran and other major cities, saying they had wanted to undermine a rally held last Friday to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. “It is clear the Iranian nation has enemies because it is a nation that wants to shine, conquer peaks and change [its international] relations,” he said. He added: “Of course, there is a lot of hostility against the government. But they knew that they would get nowhere.” (BBC) “It is a shining sun. They threw some dust towards the sun… but the dust will return to their eyes,” he warned. (BBC)

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said the calls for protesters to be executed were unacceptable. “The hypocrisy of Iranian authorities’ calls for democracy in Egypt and suppression of the same demands in Iran is deeply disturbing,” Cannon said. “Iranians gathered by the thousands to march in support of recent events in Egypt. The use of tear gas, batons and pepper spray against them by Iranian security forces was a gross violation of their rights to free expression and assembly, Iranian citizens should be free to express their political views and affiliations without fear of punishment or imprisonment,” he said in a statement. (CBC)


Protests Spread Throughout Yemen

Four at least the fourth day in a row, clashes broke out between pro- and anti-government protesters in Yemen’s capital Monday morning. About 200 anti-government protesters were rallying outside Sanaa University calling for regime change as they have since the weekend, when about 300 counter-demonstrators carrying pictures of President Ali Abdullah Saleh confronted them.

The anti-government protesters included at least 150 members of a laywers’ syndicate, who were marching through the streets on their own shouting anti-government and anti-corruption chants, before meeting up with students from Sanaa University. The two sides threw rocks at each other, and later brandished daggers and knives. Eyewitnesses said the pro-government demonstrators had the weapons, while the anti-government demonstrators were armed with sticks.

Some security forces at the scene tried to separate the two sides, while others stood on the sidelines.The anti-government protesters accused the counter-protesters of being plainclothes policemen, a charge denied by a government spokesman. Several protesters were arrested by security forces, said human rights activist Abdulrahman Barman.

CNN employees were told to leave the scene for security reasons as a crush of protesters was pushing up against the gates of Sanaa University, trying to flee the pro-government protesters. More and more security forces came out and were attempting to clear the crowd. Witnesses reported later that most people had left and the scene was becoming calmer.

On Sunday, hundreds of anti-government protesters marched toward a presidential palace. Some of them chanted, “First Mubarak, now Ali,” referring to the Yemeni president and Hosni Mubarak, who recently resigned as president of Egypt after nearly 30 years in power. Security forces put up a barbed wire barricade and blocked the protesters’ paths about two miles from the palace. At that point, the situation intensified as protesters turned away and attempted to reach the palace through side streets.

According to Tawakkol Karman, a prominent Yemeni rights activist and president of Women Journalists Without Chains, anti-riot police then “went into the crowd of protesters with batons and Tasers,” attempting to disperse them. (CNN) Karman said she and other protesters were hit with sticks and that at least 12 people were arrested. One of those arrested, human rights lawyer Khaled Al-Anesi, has since been released.

The CNN crew at the scene was surrounded by security officers, who seized the journalists’ videotapes. The tapes were returned on Monday. BBC correspondent Abdullah Gorab and his cameraman were beaten and injured by police. Mr. Gorab described what happened, telling the BBC: “I am now escaping from the police. I’m bleeding from my head. The policemen who were accompanying a prominent official figure, Hafez Meayad, were running after me after they asked more than 50 protesters from the ruling party to hit us. They took my phone and the cameraman’s phone. They beat any correspondent who tries to film the attack on the protesters. This is the current regime now in Yemen. No rule, no law. I’m bleeding now as I escape from the police.” (BBC)

Nearby, a group of about 40 pro-government demonstrators chanted, “With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for Ali.” (CNN)

“We are in need of heroes,” said Abdul-Ghani Al-Iryani, a Yemeni political analyst. “She manages to do what most men cannot do in a society that is highly prejudiced against women.” (Washington Post) While women have actively participated in the protests across the Arab world, men have largely emerged as symbols of defiance. Few expected a woman to lead the charge in Yemen, where the vast majority of protesters have been men. Most women are not free to marry whom they want; many are married off as children. In court, their testimonies are worth half that of men. When women are murdered, their families are compensated at half the amount they would receive for male victims. They are also treated in matters of inheritance. Violence against women is rife, human rights activists say. Tawakkol is one of the bravest people in this country,” said Khaled al-Anesi, who was later arrested but then released during the protests. “It is not easy for a woman to fight and go to the streets demanding change in a country like Yemen.” (Washington Post)

The anti-government group first gathered at the gates of Sanaa University earlier Sunday, where another group of pro-government demonstrators carried pictures of Ali. Police tried to disperse the crowds and stepped in to prevent pro-government demonstrators from following when the anti-government group headed away from the university toward the palace. The group of anti-government protesters included students and rights activists. Their numbers swelled from about 400 to more than 1,000 as they marched through Sanaa’s streets.

Lawyers in black robes, led by their union chief, joined the demonstrators shouting “The people want the regime to step down… A revolution free of opinion… A revolution of freedom… We who decide,” shouted the protesters. (CBC)

The anti-government protests were significant because earlier in the day, Yemen’s Embassy in Washington confirmed that the opposition coalition had announced its intention to hold a national dialogue with the administration. The government welcomed the opposition’s willingness to initiate a dialogue – though the protesters indicated otherwise.

Meanwhile, the state-run news agency Saba reported that Saleh had decided to delay a visit to the United States that was to take place in late February. Saleh has ruled Yemen for 32 years and has pledged not to stand for re-election when his current term – which started in 2006 – ends in 2013.

Mubarak’s lengthy rule ended Friday when he stepped down after 18 days of anti-government protests rocked Egypt. Echoes of Egypt’s revolution resonated across the region, with anti-government protests in Yemen and Algeria. Demonstrations also took place in Iran and Bahrain on Monday.

Brief clashes erupted Saturday in Yemen between hundreds of anti-government demonstrators who staged rival rallies in the capital. The clashes, which left a small number of people injured, followed an anti-government protest Friday night in which men armed with knives attacked more than a thousand demonstrators, according to human rights groups.