Arab world turmoil: Libya tense, sectarian clashes in Bahrain (Roundup)

March 4th, 2011 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Tripoli/Cairo, March 4 (IANS) Libya slipped further into chaos Friday with protesters fighting for the ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi regrouping and angry mourners gathering for funerals of the victims of the unrest, prompting a worried Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to say the country was on the brink of civil war.

The ripples of the uprising in Libya spread to the London School of Economics (LSE) with the director resigning over links to the Gaddafi family.

The Arab world also saw sectarian clashes flaring up in Bahrain, a protester being killed in Yemen and elections being announced in Tunisia.

The oil-rich North African country of Libya was tense following the two weeks of violence that has left between 3,000-6,000 people dead and forced about 140,000 people to flee. Though the capital Tripoli is still in Gaddafi’s control, many key towns, particularly in the east, have been overtaken by the rebels.

Funerals were held for those who fell victim to the fierce battle between troops loyal to 68-year-old Gaddafi and the demonstrators.

Al Jazeera said the funerals took place as rebels regrouped to fight potential attacks Friday, a day after air strikes took place on Brega town. The security forces did not succeed in dislodging the rebels.

Rebel reinforcements from the east of the country have reportedly begun to arrive in the town of Ajdabiya.

Witnesses in Libya’s third largest city, Misurata, said they aim to have a one-million-strong march and that some of them would head for Tripoli, DPA said.

In Tripoli, Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi denied reports of air strikes in the capital city, saying “show me a single attack, one drop, one attack….”

“Everything is legitimate and allowed if it is for the people and the peace and security of the country,” Saif added.

Russian President Medvedev said Libya was fast moving towards civil war.

“Libya has been and is on the brink of a civil war, and our task was to save the lives of our citizens (there),” RIA Novosti quoted Medvedev as saying.

The Libyan crisis had an unexpected fallout with LSE director Howard Davies resigning over the institute’s links to Gaddafi’s family.

Davies said the university’s reputation had “suffered” and so he had to quit, BBC reported Friday.

Stating that the decision to accept 300,000 pounds for research from a foundation run by Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, “backfired”, Davies regretted visiting Libya to advise its regime about financial reforms.

Saif Gaddafi had studied at the LSE for his MSc and PhD.

The rest of the Arab world was also on the boil.

In Yemen, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in front of Sana’a university in the capital, calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

One protester was killed and another injured when the army fired at a protest in the northern province of Amran, officials said Friday.

In Tunisia, which saw the first of the uprisings that have swept the Arab world, interim leader Fouad Mebazaa announced nationwide polls to elect a constitutional council on July 24.

BBC reported that the council would be tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution, adopted in 1959.

Mebazaa said that “contrary to what has been rumoured”, he and the interim government will stay in power “until the elections are held, with the help and support of all”.

Protests swept Tunisia in mid-December, forcing President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the North African country for 23 years, to flee to Saudi Arabia.

In Bahrain, sectarian clashes flared up late Thursday and hundreds of Shiites and recently naturalized Sunni Arabs fought in Hamad Town south of the Bahraini capital Manama.

Swords, wooden sticks and rocks were used in the street battle, leaving at least eight people injured.

“Both sides were at each others throats, and they even attacked police as they tried to get the crowds away from each other… we are terrified now of what will happen next,” a female resident who wished not to be named told DPA.

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