Arab world gripped by day of deadly clashes
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Crackdowns on anti-government protests in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen have left as many at least 20 people dead and many more injured on Thursday, as the unrest that toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt continued to spread in the region.
Riot police stormed through Pearl Square in the capital of Bahrain in the early morning, leaving at least four people dead and wounding an estimated 200 others. The deadly clash in Manama kicked off another major day of unrest in the Arab world, which also included deadly confrontations in Libya and Yemen.
The riot police action infuriated the country’s Shiite opposition, but was defended by Bahrain’s foreign affairs minister as necessary to pull the Gulf island state back from what he called the “brink of sectarian abyss.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington supports a process for “real, meaningful” political changes in Bahrain, which she called "a friend and ally".
The potential for continued unrest in the kingdom, which has strong ties to Saudi Arabia, unsettled investors and sent oil prices to a 28-month high of $104 per barrel during Thursday’s trading.
Clashes broke out in several towns in Libya after the opposition called for a “Day of Anger”.
Nine people died during the third-straight day of protests against leader Muammar Gaddafi, 68, in the coastal city of Benghazi, and Reuters reported five people died in the eastern town of Al Bayda, citing local witnesses.
Protesters also burned pictures of Gaddafi, who has ruled over Libya since 1969, in the eastern town of Alzantane, but the capital of Tripoli did not see any violence.
Hundreds of Gaddafi supporters reportedly staged rallies in the capital’s Green Square chanting, "We are defending Gaddafi!" and waving his portrait.
Pro- and anti-regime demonstrators clash in Sanaa
Unrest also spread in Yemen during a third straight day of demonstrations calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to end his three-decade rule.
Yemeni police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing at least one person and injuring six others in the southern port city of Aden, according to medical sources. Dozens were also wounded in violent clashes between pro- and anti-regime demonstrators in the capital city of Sanaa.
Tensions remained high in the region as Egyptian youth leaders called for a “Victory March” on Friday to mark one week since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
For a look at all the day’s events from the Middle East and North Africa, see FRANCE 24’s live blogging for Feb. 17 below.