Muscat (Oman): Dozens of protesters staged
a sit-in on Saturday in the Omani capital to demand probes into
alleged state abuses after clashes with security forces left
at least one person dead and sharply boosted tensions in the
strategic Gulf nation.
The unrest yesterday in the northern industrial city
of Sohar, where the protest movement began more than six weeks
ago, suggests that high-level shake-ups and other concessions
by Oman`s rulers have fallen short of the demonstrators`
demands for greater political freedoms.
In a sign of worries about more violence, military
imposed a nighttime curfew in Sohar and stationed units around
government offices and other key buildings in the city, about
120 miles northwest of the capital, Muscat.
Medical officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity
because they were not authorised to brief media, said a
22-year-old man died early today from injuries in the clashes
and at least four other protesters were wounded. The precise
cause of death was not immediately known.
Authorities say they used tear gas, water cannons and
rubber bullets in "self defence" after the crowds began
pelting riot police with stones and brandishing knives,
according to a statement by Oman`s prosecutor`s office.
Protesters, however, claim that police opened fire with live
It was the second protest-related death in Oman since
protests broke out in late February to demand more job
opportunities and a greater public voice in political affairs
in the tightly controlled nation. Oman`s ruler, Sultan Qaboos
bin Said, has replaced more than a dozen Cabinet officials and
promised other reforms such as 50,000 new civil servant posts.
But the government has failed to halt the wave of
rallies, sit-ins and strikes to pressure for changes that
include more media freedoms and weakening the ruling system`s
grip on power. The protest demands so far have not included
the sultan`s ouster.
In Muscat, several dozen protesters staged a sit-in
outside the chief prosecutor`s office to demand the release of
people detained in recent security crackdowns.