OMAN: Army descends on protest camp, arrests demonstrators
The soldiers moved in on the protest camp as night fell over the southern Omani city of Salalah, the country's second largest, dispersing demonstrators demanding higher salaries and more jobs and possibly arresting scores before dismantling the tents they had pitched there in February, according to Arab media reports.
The clampdown started on Thursday night when the army began firing shots in the air and tear gas shells to clear out protesters who had been camping outside the local governor's office.
Clashes between security forces and protesters and arrests were said to have continued on Friday and overnight until Saturday morning, according to amateur video footage posted to the Internet and media reports. Some reports said that some of those arrested had subsequently been released from detainment.
"Security forces used their batons and took away protesters in three army buses," a witness told the Reuters news agency.
Video footage said to have been filmed in Salalah on Friday, including the clip below, appeared to show security forces with sticks and batons trying to push protesters out of an area. Another video depicted scenes of tumult in a Salalah street as sounds of what's presumed to be tear gas being fired were heard in the background.
Several of the videos showed the army and security forces moving in on Salalah and besieging the area near the protest camp. The clip below, said to have been filmed in Salalah on Friday, shows security forces in riot gear and army officers, some wearing masks that cover their faces, surrounding a crowd of chanting protesters. The security forces appear to outnumber the demonstrators.
The protests and recent crackdowns on demonstrators in Oman send a reminder that monarchies are not immune to the wave of uprisings and unrest that have swept the Arab world for the last couple of months. A crackdown targeting protesters in the Arabian Peninsula kingdom of Bahrain is still ongoing and thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Morocco demanding greater reforms from the king.
In the conservative sultanate of Oman, ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said for the last 40 years, protesters have called for more democratic reforms and more employment opportunities, prompting the ruler to reshuffle his cabinet and announce some social reforms earlier this year. In April, he reportedly promised a spending package of more than $2 million.
But some protesters have said that they're not satisfied with the ruler's response to the demonstrations and that reforms are not being implemented fast enough.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: Security forces and army officers stand guard in front a group of Omani demonstrators in Salalah on Friday. Credit: YouTube.