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Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Sorting Out "Shameless Acts of Terror"

Syrian activist/blogger Razan Ghazzawi, Egyptian activist/blogger Alaa Abd-El Fattah, and Bahraini activist/blogger Ali Abdulemam, photographed in Budapest in 2008 --- Ghazzawi was detained this weekend, Abd-El Fattah is in prison, and Abdulemam is in hiding from a 15-year sentence

See also Saudi Arabia Feature: 16 Reformists Given Long Prison Sentences
Syria Feature: The Arrest of Activist Razan Ghazzawi
Sunday's Syria (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Actress's Message

2214 GMT: As we close the LiveBlog, we turn to Yemen. Reuters confirms the news that at least 1 civilian was killed by soldiers today in Taiz:

Tanks, armored vehicles and opposition fighters left some areas of Taiz, a hub of 10 months of unrest against Saleh's 33-year rule, but gunmen and snipers remained and had fired on demonstrators, witnesses said.

"Both sides violated the ceasefire agreement. We were marching peacefully and they (Saleh's forces) shot at us yet again," medical student Hamoud al-Aklamy told Reuters.

Activists, right now, are reporting loud explosions in various neighborhoods of the capital city, Sana'a. Every time it appears as though things in Yemen are calming down, something happens to remind us that in Yemen, just like in many places in the region, Arab Spring is far from over, despite the fact that it is now about to enter its second year.

2205 GMT: Protesters are still conducting a sit-in protest in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital Cairo, demanding that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces release all political prisoners. The demonstrators have announced that they will allow traffic to flow again in the square, while continuing the sit-in.

2200 GMT: Journalist Matthew Castle posts a beautiful photo gallery of Ashura celebrations in A'ali, Bahrain. We post his description, and one of the photos, below:

During the first ten days of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Calender, Shias across Bahrain gather in and around hundreds of the country's ma'tams (Shia congregation halls also known as a Hussainia) to commemorate Ashura. The religious holiday marks the 680CE killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Islam’s prophet Muhammad.

On each night, worshippers sit and listen to a cleric recite the story of the killing of Hussein's followers, many weep. Recounting and re-enacting Hussein's death is saved for the final day of Ashura, the tenth day of the month.

In central Manama, streets are closed to car traffic, as people setup stands to play melodious dirges and offer food and tea to mourners each night. People engage in self-flagellation inside ma'tams or as they march through the streets.

Because Shia in other Arab countries, particularly the Gulf, are prevented from commemorating the holiday openly, many come to Bahrain. However, after the pro-democracy uprising and subsequent crackdown by the ruling family earlier this year, the mood at Ashura was apparently more tense than years gone by, with fewer outsiders expected.

2029 GMT: The latest report from the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights:

The death toll on Sunday 4 December 2011 was 40 martyrs including 5 defected soldiers and 35 civilians, killed by ‘Shabeeha’ and military and security forces.

26 civilians and a defected soldier were killed in different neighbourhoods of Homs city and 3 people were killed in Izz Ad-Din, in Al-Rastan in Homs.

One civilian and a security member were killed by security forces in Deir Ezzor.

In Idlib, 5 civilians were killed in the town and villages of: Kefer Romaa, Sanja and Maaret Al-Naasan. And 2 defected soldiers were killed near Maarat Al-Numan, Idlib during clashes and a defected soldier was killed in Ariha city.

This report is slightly different from a claim made only 45 minutes ago by the Observatory that 29 died in Homs. Both are alongside an AFP article, again citing the Observatory, claiming that 34 people who had been kidnapped earlier in the day had been found dead in a central square in the city.

At this moment, we do not know the reason for the varying figures

2010 GMT: More trouble in Yemen --- activists are claiming that these videos were taken today in Taiz, where soldiers fired upon a crowd of protesters:

Then there is this report, from opposition Ain News:

Sound of gunshots from light and medium weapons have not calmed down since an hour and a half in the east of Sanaa near AlHasabah area.

Yet another activist reports that heavy munitions are being fired from a military position overlooking the city, and casualties are reported.

1949 GMT: Turning now to Egypt, turnout in the runoff elections has been low, and there have been problems at some of the polling stations:

Scuffles erupted between supporters of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafi-led Nour Party at a polling station in Omar Ibn el-Khattab School in Ain Shams on Monday afternoon. Members of the army intervened to stop the disturbances, which broke out after voters were "directed" to vote for candidates from the Nour Party.

Earlier, security authorities in Isna, Luxor, reopened six polling stations that had been closed due to a gunfight between two feuding families. Members from the Halayel family had prepared an ambush for four people belonging to the Turki family, who were getting in a private car to go to a polling station. The clash left three Turkis with bullet wounds.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian human rights group said this morning that its elections monitors have been harrassed by members of the military in Luxor and Kafr al-Sheikh while observing the runoffs for the first phase of the parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, an appeals court has refused to release Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah from prison. El Fattah is being accused of taking up arms against the Egyptian military during a protest on the 9th of October, where 28 people, mostly Coptic Christians, were killed in clashes between protesters and police.

1907 GMT: The LCCS is not carrying those reports yet, but says that 17 have died today in Syria, "including a child and a woman, have been killed by gunfire by the regime’s army and security forces, 14 in Homs and 2 martyrs in Hama and martyr in Idlib." A little math, adding this tally to the report of prisoners being killed, says that perhaps 45-50 people may have died in Homs alone today.

Again, both reports are unconfirmed, but it has clearly been an extremely violent day.

1858 GMT: Al Jazeera has a disturbing report of prisoners who may have been tortured to death at the hands of the Syrian regime:

Thirty-four Syrians abducted by pro-regime "shabiha" militiamen have been found dead in the flashpoint central city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says, according to the AFP news agency.

The Britain-based watchdog said an activist on the ground reported seeing "the bodies of 34 civilians, in a square in the pro-regime neighbourhood of Al-Zahra, who had been abducted by the shabiha on Monday".

The civilians, it said, had been seized from several "anti-regime neighbourhoods" in Homs, which has been targeted by a brutal crackdown on almost nine months of anti-regime dissent.

The Observatory also reported the so-called "shabiha" abducted on Monday a bus driver and his 13 passengers in Homs province.

1850 GMT: This video reportedly shows a large protest this evening in Busra al Harir, in Daraa province:

1728 GMT: An EA Correspondent in Bahrain reports on a rally from Sanabis:

I can see a couple of people wearing white shrouds as a simple they are ready to die for the country and freedom.

The people chant, "We demand the release of the detainees."

The march moving on the village villages while women are gathering in the side waiting to join. Now people chant, "your days are coming to an end, Leave Khalifa."

[There are now] about 1000-1500 ppl marching. Bahraini flags are waving in the protests, with some black flags too as a [symbol] of Ashura.

While the march moves in the village roads, people continue to join.

The march has reached the end - no attacks.

I just noticed the number of women who participated, [nearly the same as the] number of men - Total number in the march was not less than 2000.

1702 GMT: The LCCS also posts an impressive video gallery of today's protests, which have been large and widespread. Among the videos, a sad image of a young child who was reportedly killed today in Homs.

1657 GMT: The LCCS reports that 13 people have been killed so far in Syria, all of them in Homs:

A shell fell on one of the buildings adjacent to Khaled Bin Al-Waled mosque and smoke is rising from it, while Shabiha cars are roaming the besieged neighborhoods and particularly in the neighborhoods of Joret Al-Sheyah and Khaldiyeh, and they’re shooting randomly

A large explosion is heard from Hama road at Al-Motahen barricade followed by heavy shooting

In Daraa province, activists had reported a large military incursion earlier today. Now the LCCS adds this news, confirming the presence of the security and reporting that it is once again repositioning:

Daraa : Dael : the army is withdrawing from the city to the surrounding after this morning's invasion which was accompanied with dense shooting and a violent arrest campaign. The town is now completely besieged by the army which closed all entrances to the town


1632 GMT: Another video from Homs, this one from the Bab Sbaa district, that reportedly shows an activist running through the streets towards a house that is on fire, the result of a tank shell:

1628 GMT: An important-if-true claim, that Iran is trying to convince Hamas to continue its support of Damascus, a clear sign that Iran is threatened by events in Syria, and Hamas has its loyalties increasingly torn:

Citing unnamed Palestinian sources, the Israeli daily Haaretz said Iran warned it would stop supplying arms and training to Hamas after reports that the Gaza rulers were quietly relocating members out of the Syrian capital.

Diplomats and regional sources said the Hamas delegation in Damascus, which once numbered hundreds of Palestinian officials and their relatives, had shrunk to a few dozen, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Hamas officials deny there has been any change in policy and say they will not interfere in internal Syrian affairs, while Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal remains in the capital.

1617 GMT: Activist Edward Dark shares two videos that may explain why the casualty count in Homs is so high. The first reportedly shows "snipers" on the rooftops in the Bab Tadmor district, while what sounds like distant gunfire can be heard in the background. The second video reportedly was also taken in Bab Tadmor. It is taken from a low vantage point, and bullets can be seen hitting a wall, "indiscriminate fire," according to activists. Notice in the audio on the second video, the bullets sometimes sound high-pitched, indicating that they are hitting close to the camera.

1513 GMT: 11 people have been killed in Syria, all of them so far in Homs, according to the LCCS, and a video of one of the victims has also been released.

1500 GMT: Under pressure from increased international saber-rattling, the Syrian armed forces have conducted their largest war simulation is recent years:

State TV said the exercise was meant to test "the capabilities and the readiness of missile systems to respond to any possible aggression."

The drill showed Syrian missiles and troops were "ready to defend the nation and deter anyone who dares to endanger its security" and that the missiles hit their test targets with precision, the TV said.

1453 GMT: Within the last hour, the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria are reporting an intense escalation in Homs:

Homs: A shell fell on one of the buildings adjacent to Khaled Bin Al-Waled mosque and smoke is rising from it, while Shabiha cars are roaming the besieged neighborhoods and particularly in the neighborhoods of Joret Al-Sheyah and Khaldiyeh, and they're shooting randomly

Homs: A large explosion is heard from Hama road at Al-Matahen (mills) barricade followed by heavy shooting

Homs: Martyrdom of Abdul Baset Owaish and injury of many people, some of them in critical condition after armored vehicles shot randomly in Cairo street

This is a map of Homs, created by activists, showing the areas where protests, and violence, have been reported since the start of the uprising.

1432 GMT: In Yemen, the violence has not stopped in the country's second largest city, Taiz. This morning, 20 year-old female student Ruwaya al-Shaybani was reportedly shot through the test by soldiers in an armored vehicle while she was protesting. Many others were injured:

The killing threatened to reignite days of bloody clashes between government forces and tribesman supportive of the protesters. Over three days last week, at least 18 people were killed as government forces shelled neighborhoods, responding to what officials claimed was a bid to take over the city by the tribesman.

Now, we're getting a report from journalist Tom Finn that the violence has not ended. Approximately 7 minutes ago he sent this tweet:

"Plume of white smoke rising from buildings close to al-thowra hospital"

The opposition has already threatened to back out of the deal which granted immunity to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in exchange for him stepping down.

1423 GMT: The developments in Syria come in two flavors, developments inside the country and the world's reaction to those developments. While Turkey has been praised by protesters on the grounds, the opposition has, in the past, accused the Iranian regime of supplying military support to Assad, and Russia and China have been accused of supporting Assad on the international front.

The message to these countries from the Syrian opposition is clear - we're watching, we will win, and when we do we will not forget:

SNC spokesman Ahmed Ramadan revealed that the Syrian opposition had informed Moscow and Beijing that they have the right to bet on the al-Assad regime, but any new Syrian government will take this into account should the al-Assad regime collapse.

Whilst Samir al-Nashar, who heads the Secretariat of the Damascus Decleration, said “if the US had continued to gamble on the Hosni Mubarak regime, then [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton would not have been able to appear in Tahrir Square.”

He also said “I believe that the Russians, based on certain statements issued here and there, are reviewing their position [on Syria], as are the Chinese.” Al-Nashar also revealed that the SNC has been in communication with Tehran, adding “we are not against dialogue with any party, and we respect Iran as a central power in the region, however before any dialogue can take place the Iranians must correct their position [on Syria], because they have contributed to the suppression of the Syrian people by providing the Syrian regime with information, as well as logistical support.”

Al-Nashar claimed that “they [the Iranians] provided the Syrian regime with equipment to spy on the Syrian political activists, benefitting from their experience in suppressing the Green Revolution….whilst they also participated in the planning of field operations against peaceful [Syrian] activists, and we therefore cannot deal with Iran unless it corrects its position with regards to the Syrian revolution.”

1414 GMT: Students chant "Syria wants to be free" today in Hammouriyah, Damascus, after school is let out. The sign is carries today's date:

James Miller takes the liveblog, with EA Correspondent Josh Shahryar assisting. Thanks to Scott Lucas for taking us through the morning.

1325 GMT: A military court in Egypt has extended the detention of activist/blogger Alaa Abd-El Fattah for another 15 days.

Abd-El Fattah has been held on a rolling series of 15-day imprisonments since October. He is charged with stealing weapons and contributing to disruption in the 9 October protests in the Maspero section of Cairo, in which 28 people --- mainly Coptic Christian demonstrators --- were killed.

1255 GMT: Tunisian Interim President Fouad Mbazaa has confirmed that he will not sign a decree to extradite Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, the former Libyan Prime Minister, fearing that he would be subject to torture.

Libya's National Transitional Council has demanded the extradition of al-Mahmoudi on charges of financial corruption. The Libyan judiciary ruled in two decisions in November that the former Prime Minister must be returned.

Local and international human rights organizations opposed Mahmoudi’s extradition.

0620 GMT: Activists claim that at least a dozen Syrian secret police have defected from an Air Force intelligence complex in Idlib in the northwest.

A gunfight overnight on Saturday/Sunday reportedly killed 15 people --- seven regime troops, five defectors, and three civilians --- after the breakaway by the secret police.

0605 GMT: Meanwhile in Syria, which has seen many "shameless acts" over the last nine months, another 36 people were killed by security forces on Sunday, according to activists.

The latest deaths came as yet another deadline passed for Damascus to accept an Arab League plan to end violence and allow observers to monitor the situation in the country.

Facing further sanctions, the regime indicated it was negotiating over the plan. "Messages are being exchanged between Syria and the Arab League to reach a certain vision that would facilitate the mission of observers in Syria, while preserving Syrian interests and sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said.


A senior Qatari official said Syria had asked for "new clarifications and further amendments to be made to the protocol which was proposed" for the deployment of observers, but this was "refused". The official added that if the Syrians "still want to sign; they can come tomorrow to Cairo".

0545 GMT: We began in Bahrain, where a relatively quiet few days --- during the religious commemoration of Ashura, protesters have been trying to avoid conflict --- was disrupted early Sunday by the regime's proclamation of an explosion in a minibus near the British Embassy.

Despite State media and a press conference by the Ministry of Interior, there was little to drive the story through the day. Beyond the photograph of a damaged but far from demolished vehicle --- one observer commented, "That was either a really tough minibus, or a shit bomb" --- there were no casualties to report, and authorities could offer nothing on cause beyond an insinuation that the act must be connected to Tuesday's occupation of the British Embassy in Iran by protesters.

That has not stopped the regime-linked Gulf Daily News from proclaiming, "Shameless Act of Terror!", even if the sources in its featured article --- all British expatriates --- can go no further than, "I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be youngsters...I would expect the damage to be much worse, but after what happened in Tehran recently you can't rule out the Iranian element."

An EA correspondent is sceptical about the incident: "The regime found an opportunity, with the Iranian attack on the British Embassy, to link Iran with 'terrorism'." He notes --- as have others --- that the area was sealed off before the claimed time of the explosion: "I passed by the British Embassy on my way home at midnight, one hour before the bomb and the place was packed with police."

The motive for a set-up? Our correspondent explains:

They aim to hit more than one bird with one stone:  1) Link Iran with Bahrain events after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry declared otherwise; 2) Frighten the Shi'a since the embassy is located near the the center of Manama, where thousands gather for Ashura processions every year; 3) Have an excuse for "Peninsula Shield" [the military forces of the Gulf Co-operation Countries, who entered in March] to stay longer.

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