By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The situation remains tense in Libya and Bahrain on February 19 amid reports that dozens of people were killed by Libyan security forces and an offer of dialogue by Bahrain’s ruler has been rejected by the opposition.
Some 84 people were killed during three days of antigovernment protests in Libya, according to an estimate from the New York-based Human Rights Watch. There is no official confirmation of the death toll.
Most of the protests have been confined to the eastern city of Benghazi — some 1,000 kilometers from the Libyan capital — and its nearby areas, where support for the long-serving leader Muammar Qaddafi is traditionally weak.
‘Violent And Thunderous’ Response
According to Human Rights Watch: “Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the eastern Libyan cities of Benghazi, Baida, Ajdabiya, Zawiya, and Derna on February 18, 2011, following violent attacks against peaceful protests the day before that killed 20 people in Benghazi, 23 in Baida, three in Ajdabiya, and three in Derna.”
Media reported that many protesters on February 19 were still standing in front of the Benghazi court building, where tanks have been stationed by security forces.
Libyan state media reported that rallies to support Qaddafi took place in recent days in the capital, Tripoli, where the situation reportedly remains calm.
The pro-government “Al-Zahf al-Akhdar” newspaper warned earlier that protesters will face a “violent and thunderous” response by the authorities.
Qaddafi has been ruling the oil-rich North-African nation of 6.5 million since 1969.
Without giving any details, “Quryana,” a private newspaper, reported that the country’s parliament will adopt a “major shift” in government policy, and will appoint new people to high government posts.
Libyan authorities have restricted media, blocking some websites and barring reporters from travelling to Benghazi. Mobile phone connections were out of service in eastern areas and parts of Benghazi were lacking electricity. On February 18, the country’s Internet connections were severed for six hours, although service has reportedly been restored now.
No Dialogue Deal In Bahrain
The kingdom of Bahrain is another Arab nation experiencing antigovernment protests following the ouster of Tunisian and Egyptian leaders by popular uprisings in recent weeks.
The main Shi’a opposition group has rejected a national dialogue “with all parties” offered by King Hamad Isa al-Khalifa to resolve a crisis. Six people have been killed during violence surrounding the protests in the Gulf nation, which is ruled by a Sunni royal family.
The Wefaq bloc said the government should resign before it will consider any dialogue.
Protesters in Bahrain are demanding greater political rights. At least 50 people were injured on February 18 when a rally was violently suppressed by government forces. The rally took place following the funeral of protesters killed the previous day.
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the violence during a phone conversation with King Hamad on the evening of February 18. Obama urged the Bahrain authorities to show restraint.
The island nation of 1.2 million people is a key U.S. ally and hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Unrest and antigovernment protests continue in other Arab countries. About 200 protesters gathered in the Algerian capital on Saturday chanting “Algeria Free and Democratic,” and “People Want the Fall of the Regime.”
The fresh protest follows weeks of strikes and sporadic protests in the North African state.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has promised to lift a 19-year state of emergency by the end of the month. The state of emergency was put in place to combat the country’s two-decade-long Islamic insurgency.
Three people were killed in five days of protests against rising food prices last month in Algeria.