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Omani forces clear protest camps, arrest many

Muscat, May 14, 2011

Omani security forces cleared demonstrators' camps and arrested hundreds, witnesses and protesters said, stamping out two more centres of protests demanding improved living conditions in the Sultanate.

In the southern port of Salalah, security forces fired shots in the air to push out protesters camped outside the provincial governor's office late on Thursday, destroying their tents and arresting dozens and possibly hundreds of protesters, witnesses said. No one was seriously injured.

Protesters have focused on demands for more jobs, better wages and an end to graft. They have also urged more democratic reforms in the conservative and once tranquil sultanate.

'They are trying to crush our movement,' an activist in Salalah, who asked not to be named, told Reuters by telephone, indicating the government was extending gains made when it put down protests in the northeastern industrial city of Sohar.

Omani security forces suppressed unrest in Sohar by deploying armoured vehicles and troops to break up roadblocks and a protest camp, while arresting hundreds. At least two protesters were killed during protests there.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said who has ruled Oman for 40 years, promised a $2.6 billion spending package in April.

In the capital Muscat, security forces made protesters camped outside a government building abandon their daily sit-in. But residents said protesters complied with the request and there was no use of force.

Many protesters have been unsatisfied with Sultan Qaboos' response to their demands, saying the changes have been partial or too slow. In March, he sacked 12 ministers without naming a reason, but protesters demanded they be tried for corruption.

The sultan also promised to cede some legislative powers to the partially-elected Oman Council, an advisory body. Currently only the sultan and his cabinet can legislate, and a transfer of powers has yet to be announced. – Reuters




Tags: Oman | Muscat | protests | Camps | Sultan |

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