Soldiers in Libya and Bahrain have fired on demonstrators as authorities try to quell growing unrest, triggered after protesters toppled 30 year autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.
Troops in Libya reportedly shot and killed at least 12 mourners in the city of Benghazi, after a group tried to storm a military barracks and throw firebombs into the compound on the way to the funeral. Opposition groups claimed up to 60 were killed, while one activist told the BBC that the regime was releasing prisoners from jail to attack the demonstrators.
The BBC reported that troops used mortars and 14.5mm heavy machine guns to repress the civilians, while Al-Jazeera reported that hospitals were running out of blood needed for emergency transfusions.
Al-Jazeera also reported an account from a cleric in Benghazi, who witnessed a tank crushing two people in a car. Libyan President Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi has also imposed a news blackout on the country and banned journalists from entering.
Analysts have further suggested that the human cost of an Egyptian-style uprising in Libya could be far higher, given the military apparent enthusiasm for firing on its own population.
Bahrain’s military meanwhile shot and killed at least one demonstrator and wounded 50 more, during a funeral procession for four people killed in earlier unrest.
Rising tensions and ongoing demonstrations suggest that King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa’s gift of US$3000 on February 12 to every family in the poverty-stricken Gulf nation has failed to satisfy protesters.
The UK, which has previously supported regimes in Bahrain and Libya, announced it was withdrawing licenses authorising the sale on arms to both countries.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence has trained more than 100 Bahraini army officers in the past five years at its military college in Sandhurst, reports the UK’s Guardian newspaper, while the country is also a base for the US fifth fleet.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has meanwhile condemned the shooting of protesters in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, and described the entire region as “boiling with anger.”
“At the root of this anger is decades of neglect of people’s aspirations to realise not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights,” Navi said.