Fighters loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi sought to maintain their grip on the capital, Tripoli, on Wednesday, as a growing popular uprising spread across the eastern part of the country and anti-government forces consolidated control over key Mediterranean cities.
Heavy gunfire was reported early Wednesday in Tripoli, with armed pro-Gaddafi militiamen roaming the main streets, firing weapons into the air and chanting slogans as they followed orders to hunt down opposition protesters, the Associated Press reported. Some residents set up barricades to keep the militiamen out of their neighborhoods and searched people trying to enter, the agency said.
The week-old uprising that has swept the country now appeared headed for a decisive stage, with Colonel Qaddafi fortifying his bastion in Tripoli and opponents in the capital saying they were making plans for their first coordinated protest.
“A message comes to every mobile phone about a general protest on Friday in Tripoli,” one resident there said, adding that Colonel Qaddafi’s menacing speech to the country on Tuesday had increased their determination “100 percent.”
The looming signs of a new confrontation came as a growing number of Libyan military officers and officials said Wednesday that they had broken with Colonel Qaddafi over his intentions to bomb and kill Libyan civilians challenging his four decades of rule. (2)
Seven members of Yemen’s parliament have resigned from President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ruling party to protest against what they described as government violence against demonstrators, the parliamentarians have said.
“The people must have the right to demonstrate peacefully,” Abdulaziz Jubari, a leading parliamentarian who has resigned, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.
Jubari said the parliamentarians had sent a 10-point letter to Saleh with demands for immediate reform, including restructuring the army to make it more representative of Yemen’s complex society and to aid a transition to democracy.
Among those who resigned is tribal leader Abdo Bisher from the Sanaa region and two figures from southern Yemen.Saleh still has around 240 members out of the 301-strong parliament, which the opposition says was a result of unfair elections and the use of state machinery to elect Saleh’s allies.
But there were signs of growing opposition to Saleh within his own cabinet with the tourism minister calling for early elections.
On Wednesday, thousands streamed into a square in Sanaa trying to strengthen the hold of anti-government protesters after the president’s supporters tried to disperse them.
At least 50 political prisoners have been released in Bahrain, including 23 Shia activists accused of plotting to overthrow the kingdom’s al-Khalifa dynasty.
The state also pardoned two others abroad, including opposition leader Hassan Mashaima, an MP told the AFP news agency.
The move late on Tuesday comes after state media reported that King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa had ordered the release of prisoners, a demand of protesters seeking an elected government in the country.
Ibrahim Mattar of the Shia Wefaq party told the Reuters news agency it was a “positive move” but that dozens still remain in jail.
“Allowing the people to protest and releasing those people are positive moves,” he said.
Some political prisoners freed just hours earlier joined anti-government protesters marching through the capital of Manama, Bahrain, on Wednesday, but local rights groups say hundreds more remain in prison. Meanwhile, the protest movement shows no signs of losing steam. (2)
Algeria’s cabinet has adopted an order to lift a 19-year-old state of emergency in a concession designed to avoid the tide of uprisings sweeping the Arab world, but protesters said the measure did not go far enough.
A draft law approved by the cabinet would repeal the emergency law as soon as it is published in the government’s official journal, the official Algerie Presse Service reported on Wednesday.
Ending the emergency powers was one of the demands voiced by opposition groups which have been staging weekly protests in the Algerian capital that sought to emulate uprisings in Egypt and neighbouring Tunisia.
“The lifting of the state of emergency is still positive but it’s not enough,” Mustafa Bouchachi, chairman of the Algerian Human Rights League and one of the organisers of the protests, said on Tuesday.
“We need a real opening up for political, media and social activities so that the people can experience democracy forthemselves,” he told the Reuters news agency.
The emergency measures, long lambasted by international human rights groups, have barred peaceful protests, limited constitutionally granted political freedoms and allowed for what many described as arbitrary detentions.