Security forces opened fire on protesters in Bahrain for a second day, wounding at least 50 people as thousands defied the government in an uprising that seeks to break the political grip of the Gulf nation’s leaders.
Again, authorities showed no hesitation in using force against demonstrators in the capital Manama, who marched towards Pearl Square, stepping up their demands to bring down the ruling monarchy.
US president Barack Obama condemned the use of violence against the protesters in Bahrain, as well as in Libya and Yemen, where heavy crackdowns by old-guard regimes were reported.
A Libyan doctor said 35 protesters were killed in the eastern city of Benghazi during a confrontation with security forces, while four people were killed and 48 wounded during protests called as part of a “Friday of Rage” in Yemen.
The continuing wave of anger in the Arab world followed successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, where hundreds of thousands of people celebrated the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak a week ago.
In Bahrain, critically-injured protesters were again rushed to Manama’s main Salmaniya hospital, which also received the dead and wounded after riot police smashed a protest encampment early on Thursday in the landmark square.
Some medics were in tears as they tended to the wounded. X-rays showed bullets still lodged inside victims. “This is a war,” said Dr Bassem Deif, an orthopaedic surgeon examining people with bullet-shattered bones.
Of the 50 injured, seven were critical, a Health Ministry official said. Seven people have died in Bahrain’s unrest this week, including five on Thursday, and more than 200 have been wounded.
Mr Obama discussed the situation with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain early on Friday, asking him to hold accountable those responsible for the violence. He said Bahrain must respect the “universal rights” of its people and embrace “meaningful reform”.
“I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,” Mr Obama said. “The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.”