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Wednesday
Apr202011

Syria, Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Watching for Reactions

Prayer at Protest in Homs, Syria (Photo: Reuters)2110 GMT: The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Yemeni authorities to explain why they have held journalist Ali Salah Ahmed since Tuesday without revealing his location or charging him with a crime.

Ahmed, an anchor for the privately-owned news channel Suhail, with ties to the opposition party Al-Islah, was seized upon his arrival from Germany.

Ahmed worked for several years as the program director of the official state-run television station Yamania but resigned in 2009 denouncing government attempts to manipulate news coverage of civil unrest in southern Yemen.

Ahmad al-Mohamadi, a reporter for Suhail, is also missing after he was called in for questioning Saturday by the Republican Guards.

The CPJ also highlighted the testimony of several journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan, who said anti-riot police attacked them on Monday as they were covering protests in Erbil.

Syria WikiLeaks Special: How the US Government "Supported Opposition Groups" (and for How Long?)
Syria WikiLeaks Document: The US Government Support of Opposition Groups, Civil Society, and Human Rights (April 2009)
Egypt Snapshot: A Leadership Vacuum in Suez (Allam)

0720 GMT: Two extended clips of the protests and clashes in Yemen yesterday --- at least four people were killed by the gunfire of security forces:

1740 GMT: Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja, well-known as @AngryArabiya on Twitter, has ended her hunger strike after 10 days.

Al-Khawaja was protesting the beating and imprisonment of her father, husband, and brother-in-law by masked soldiers earlier this month. She said she decided to halt the fast because "being silent in a tomb and not able to speak is not in the interests of my family".

1730 GMT: Thanks to James Miller for taking the LiveBlog through the afternoon.

Reports have been coming in of Western journalists killed and wounded by a regime mortar barrage on Misurata in Libya. Photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who contributed to Vanity Fair and filmed the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo is reported to have been slain. Photojournalist Chris Hondros is in "grave" condition. There are reports of two other journalists injured.

1606 GMT: The Tale of Two Moons - In Bahrain, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon met with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shaikh Khalid Al Khalifa, in order to discus the recent unrest. According to Bahraini state press, the two had many commons interests:

"U.N Secretary General, for his part, emphasized the world organization’s support for measures taken by the Kingdom of Bahrain to maintain security and stability. He also praised the political reforms led by His Majesty the King and Bahrain's progress and prosperity at all levels."

According to the report, Moon praised Bahrain's humanitarian efforts in Libya, and expressed the desire to "expressed the need to redouble efforts to support security and stability in the region," a phrase repeated earlier in the report.

How collegial. I'm sure that the UN News Centre's account is full of praise for the glowing beacon of hope in a region filled with violence and unrest. Oh, wait, what's this? I give you paragraph 1...

"Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced his concern to Bahrain’s Foreign Minister about the violence in the country in which demonstrators have been killed or injured, and called for maximum restraint and caution."

1545 GMT: Two were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes between anti-Saleh protesters and security forces in Yemen today. Elsewhere, At least one person was killed in Yemen today as a motorcyclist fired bullets into a camp of protesters.

As the UN Security Council failed to come up with joint statement on Yemen, opposition groups have called for massive anti-government demonstrations. The conflict there continues to intensify.

Earlier, the leader of the new centrist party, Mohammed Abu Lahoum, said that if Saleh was willing to step down, it would benefit the people of Yemen to grant him immunity in order to prevent further bloodshed, while others would still be held accountable for their actions. 

1516 GMT: The New York Times is following developments at Aleppo University, in northern Syria. The reports seem to rely heavily on a Twitter source, though some of the information has been mentioned by sources we also follow. 

Apparently, many students gathered, but they were attacked by security forces. Many students took shelter in the Medical University.

Two videos have emerged, posted on a Youtube page associated with student protesters. This first video, also posted by a source that we follow, shows a gathering of protesting students, who appear to be attacked at the end of the video. 

This video shows an injured medical student being rushed to a hospital. 

1458 GMT: Al Jazeera is reporting that 3000 protesters gathered today in Homs, where they delivered the body of a protester, killed yesterday, to his home.

1450 GMT: Deceipt? Fida Eldin Issa, a major opposition leader who launched several Facebook pages encouraging a revolution in Syria, is claiming that security forces are spreading false information about him on the internet. The latest, a video of someone claiming to be his wife, wearing a full veil and calling for revolution. He claims that the video is an attempt to link his motives to an "islamist" movement, but he denies having any direct connection with a political organization. 

1432 GMT: Today, as many as 4000 students defied Bashar al-Assad's orders and protested in the southern city of Daraa, Syria, near the al-Omari Mosque. Dozens of students also protested at Aleppo University, in northern Syria. Activists ar reporting that all eyes are set on Friday, when huge demonstrations are planned throughout the country. 

Despite lifting of the 50 year emergency law, there is no sign that the opposition has been placated by the government's pledges to reform.

1424 GMT: The Arab league has announced that it is delaying its summit on regional unrest, scheduled for May 11th. One of the primary reasons for the delay? Iraq has openly criticized Bahrain's crackdown against its Shiite population. 

1406 GMT: A revolution makes strange bedfellows. Al Jazeera has recieved a video of hundreds of Alawites and Sunnis, protesting together against the al-Assad regime, in Jableh last night. Scenes like this prove that the opposition to Assad is diverse, and has buried some of the older divisions, at least temporarily. 

1400 GMT: A day after 2 were killed in Syria's third-largest city, Homs, a source describes the the scene to the New York Times.

“'The city is still mourning its dead,' said a political activist who gave his name as Abu Haydar, speaking by telephone from Homs. 'There are security forces everywhere, in ever corner of the city and it is not clear what is going to happen, but we are preparing for demonstrations on Friday.'"

1352 GMT: This video reportedly shows women protesting at Daraa University, Syria, on Tuesday. They are chanting "God is great, God is Great. Peaceful, Peaceful."

1342 GMT: On Friday, US President Barack Obama informed Congress that it is providing Libyan rebels with $25 million for "nonlethal aid," another sign that NATO support of the rebels is expanding beyond the previous scope.  

1333 GMT: Syria resonating in Lebanon? At least 7 Lebanese have been arrested for distributing pamphlets supporting anti-government protests in Syria. Hizb al- Tahrir (Liberation Party) has applied for a permit for a rally against the al-Assad government and in solidarity with the protests there, but the permit has been denied.

Ties between Syria and Lebanon have been strained, as some Syrian officials have accused Lebanon of interfering in internal matters.

"'Confessions' of a three-member terrorist cell aired by Syrian state-run television last week revealed that Lebanese MP Jamal Jarrah of the anti-Syrian Future Movement funded and armed anti- regime protesters in Lebanon's neighbor country, but Jarrah has constantly denied the charge." 

Yesterday, however, several high ranking Lebanese officials announced their support of the al-Assad regime, as Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Moussawi told a pro-Syrian crowd that, "there is no stability in Lebanon without stability in Syria, no security in Lebanon without security in Syria."

13:12 GMT: The emergency is over, right? British authorities have released a new travel advisory, suggesting all citivens should leave Syria immediately. Clearly, British intelligence believes that things are still heating up in Syria. 

1303 GMT: Italy has also announced that it will be sending 10 military experts to meet with and train rebels, after France and England announced earlier that they are doing the same. 

1256 GMT: Syrian opposition media, Barada TV (which, according to Wikileaks documents featured and dissected today on EA, has received funding from the US government) is reporting that simply lifting the emergency laws in Syria will not be enough to quell protests after so many people have died.  

1243 GMT: Libyan state television is reporting that NATO forces have begun attacks on telecommunications and broadcasting infrastructure in several Libyan cities. This has not been confirmed, there is no evidence that the boradcast ability of the state-run media has been disrupted yet, and this would conflict with reports from Western officials that only military targets are the focus for attacks, in accordance with the UN resolution. 

1135 GMT: As President Nicolas Sarzoky meets Libyan opposition leader Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the French Government has said it will join Britain in sending a small number of military liaison officers to support the insurgents.A French spokesman said the number of military liaison officers would be in single digits and their mission would be to help “organize the protection of the civilian population". The official British position is that their deployment could involve up to 20 advisors.

Italy has also said that it is sending military instructors.

1110 GMT: Human Rights Watch claims that Saudi authorities have arrested more than 160 peaceful dissidents in violation of international human rights law since February 2011.

0925 GMT: One person has reportedly been killed and eight wounded after a gunman on a motorcycle fired at a Yemeni anti-regime protest camp in Hodaida.

AFP is reporting that a policeman was shot dead and three others wounded by protesters in Aden, Yemen's main southern port city.

0920 GMT: Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of Libya's opposition National Transitional Council, will meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris today.

Jalil is expected to ask for an increase in NATO air strikes and to provide a list of officials in Tripoli with whom the opposition would be willing to work if Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi departs.

0545 GMT: The Secretary-General of an Egyptian commission investigating events during the uprising from 25 January to 11 February has said that former President Hosni Mubarak was complicit in shootings of anti-regime protesters.

Omar Marawan asserted, "Whether the president gave the official order or remained silent knowing the shooting of protesters would take place, he is responsible for the 846 protesters who died during the January 25 revolution, especially since the killing started from Day One." 

0530 GMT: We are watching for the reactions to the Syrian regime's declaration on Tuesday that it was lifting the 1963 Emergency Law and abolishing the State Security Court which tried political prisoners. The regime also said a law allowing peaceful protest had been passed, although this was quickly limited by the Ministry of Interior's order that Syrians should not take part in rallies, demonstrations, or sit-ins.

One overnight development: opposition figure Mahmoud Issa was taken from his house in Homs by forces from the Political Security Division. 

Not much so far today from Libya. Headlines focus on the British Government's declaration that it was sending a military team to work with the opposition's National Transitional Council, while Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, now the day-to-day top spokesman for the regime, has declared in a television interview, "I am very optimistic and we will win. The situation changes every day in our favour."

The United Nations Security Council has met for the first time about the crisis in Yemen, but the discussion was of little immediate significance. There was no agreement on a statement proposed by Lebanon and Germany expressing concern at the political crisis, calling on the parties "to exercise restraint and to enter into a comprehensive dialogue to realise the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people".

On Tuesday, at least four people were killed in Sanaa and Taiz by security forces while officials of the Yemeni regime met the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in Abu Dhabi over a proposal for President Saleh to transfer power to his deputy. The GCC had met an opposition delegation in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

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