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Bahrain, Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Deaths and Disappearances

2030 GMT: My thanks to James Miller for taking you through the afternoon and early evening on the LiveBlog. With news slowing today, we are already looking forward to a lively Friday, with the prospect of mass protests in countries such as Syria and Yemen.

We will be back at 0600 GMT.

2030 GMT: Syrian activist Suhair Atassi writes that the Army has entered with tanks into Tahrir Square (formerly Clock Square) in Homs.

1825 GMT: Reuters news agency has posted several pictures depicting casualties at the hands of Gaddafi artillery strikes in Misurata, Libya, taken today.

Also, the AFP has a picture of a rebel near the gates of Ajdabiya.

1730 GMT: James Miller is back from a break to find that there is lots of interesting news.

President Barack Obama has authorized the use of armed Predator drones in Libya. The drones, infamous in places like Pakistan, are capable of low altitude missile strikes in areas where other military action is too risky or ineffective. 

1520 GMT: Several news agencies, and informers on the ground, are reporting that as the sun is going down, the Syrian military and police are attempting to establish control of the center of several main cities.

Roadblocks, security forces, and even tanks are positioning themselves near areas where protests are expected to break out tomorrow. It appears that the Syrian government has no intention of allowing large demonstrations from taking place. 

On the other hand, President Assad has passed legislation that would allow peaceful protests. Tomorrow will be the first test of this new law.

1511 GMT: A leading Bahraini activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, may already be on trial. His family was informed of the time and place of his trial, but when they arrived at the courtroom the court denied any knowledge of the case. He was beaten and taken from his home on April 9.

1503 GMT: This video was taken at the coastal town of Baniyas (one can make out the oil refinery there in the background). A tank rolls down the street, and protesters manage to force it to turn back.

1445 GMT: Al Jazeera has also reported protests in Ain al-Arab, near Aleppo, in northern Syria. This town has a large Kurdish population. According to their sources, over 3000 Kurds have begun protests there. 

1434 GMT: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has passed into law decree 161, effectively ending a state of emergency that has existed for five decades. He has also dissolved the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) and has granted the right to protest peacefully.  

Thus far, Syrian authorities have branded many of the protests as an insurgency bent on overthrowing the government, and not peaceful protests. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether the government, or the protesters, will change their approach to the current crisis.

1430 GMT: Gulf Arab mediators are urging Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. They have proposed a three month transition plan, with Saleh stepping down within the first month and handing power over to his vice-president. The plans calls for "the formation of a national unity government with 50 per cent held by the ruling party, 40 per cent by the opposition and 10 per cent by other parties."

This news follows a meeting between Saleh and the Secretary General of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) which we noted earlier today (1000 GMT).

1417 GMT: A source that has been reliable in the past (@SyrianJasmine) is reporting a growing demonstration in Bab Alhaded, in Aleppo, northern Syria. This video reportedly depicts the scene. The video was uploaded approximately 30 minutes ago.


1410 GMT: The Libyan State News Agency, Jana, has reported that a Libyan oil tanker has been intercepted by NATO forces. No word yet as to its contents or where the tanker was headed.

1400 GMT: Cyber War? Scott Lucas reports that Al Arabiya has been hacked, and the homepage has been replaced by a black background with the words "Crack Man" in red. James Miller notes that the website does not appear hacked in America, probably because the site is mirrored on multiple servers. Al Arabiya is based in the UAE.

1125 GMT: The Omani state news agency reports that Sultan Qaboos bin Said has pardoned 234 people who were arrested during anti-regime protests.

The pardon covers those taken into custody for "the crimes of crowding in public streets". Those who blocked roads, obstructed police, and attacked public employees have been referred to courts for prosecution.

1120 GMT: Syrian academic and writer Sami Moubayed summarises the reforms proposed by the Assad regime this week:


The new government lifted the state of emergency that has been in place since the Ba'athists came to power in 1963. The emergency laws, imposed at a time of coups and counter-coups that rocked Syria, have been in place for 48 years. Lifting the law means security officials can no longer arrest, detain, or interrogate citizens without a proper court warrant. Any person summoned for questioning will be entitled to a fair and public trial in the presence of an attorney.


The new government also canceled the special National Security Court, which was established in 1968. That controversial court has been charged with looking into all cases referred to it by the Military Governor under Emergency Laws, known in Arabic as al-Hakem al-Urfic, and who in this case was the Minister of Interior. All cases currently registered with the now-disbanded court will immediately be referred to civil courts for a fair trial. A previous decision to replace emergency laws with a law for counter-terrorism, similar to the Patriot Act, has been canceled.


1115 GMT: Between 60 and 70 students protested inside the university in Hasakah in northeastern Syria this morning, chanting their support for demonstrators in other cities and calling for freedom.

An organiser of the protest said students were prevented from leaving the university to march in the city. There were no reports of injuries or arrests.

Claimed video:

1110 GMT: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has appointed a new governor, Ghassan Abdul-Al, in the central city of Homs.

The appointment comes as soldiers and armed security agents in plainclothes were deployed across the city in anticipation of rallies to be held on Friday.

1105 GMT: An Egyptian court has ordered the names of former President Hosni Mubarak and his wife Suzanne to be removed from all public places, including sport fields, streets, about 500 schools, squares, and libraries.

1030 GMT: Human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has gone on military trial in Bahrain.

Al-Khawaji was arrested with two of his sons-in-law on 9 April and reportedly beaten unconscious.

Al-Khawaji's family were not allowed to enter the court.

1000 GMT: The Secretary General of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has met Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa to present the GCC's views on ending the political crisis.

GCC officials met Yemeni opposition representatives on Sunday and regime officials on Tuesday to discuss a proposal for Saleh to hand over power to his Vice President.

On Wednesday, Saleh told supporters he would stand firm amid "conspiracies and coups". He said, "Those who want power or to gain the seat of power should do so through the ballot box. Change and departure will be through voting via the legal framework of the constitution."

0930 GMT: Al Jazeera reports that insurgents have taken control of the Wazin border post on the Tunisian frontier. About 100 Qaddafi troops handed themselves over to Tunisian border guards after being chased by the opposition fighters.

0815 GMT: Video of a candle-lit demonstration in Daraa in southern Syria last night:

0520 GMT: The leading news in the "Western" media this morning is of the deaths of two photojournalists and the wounding of two others when they were caught in a regime assault on the Libyan city of Misurata.

Tim Hetherington, the director and producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo on the Afghanistan conflict, was killed immediately, and Chris Hondros of Getty died later. Guy Martin of Panos has been severely injured.

The news overtook other events last night, including the continuing siege of Misurata with the regime taking its attack on Libya's third-largest city through an eighth week. At least five civilians were reportedly slain on Wednesday

Libya's State news agency Jana claimed that seven civilians were killed and 18 wounded in a NATO air raid that targeted the southwestern Tripoli suburb of Khellat Al-Ferjan late Wednesday.  Jana also asserted that NATO warplanes also carried out raids Wednesday at Bir Al-Ghanam, about 50 km (31 miles) southwest of the Libyan capital, that left four people dead.

In Bahrain, "at least 32 doctors, including surgeons, physicians, paediatricians and obstetricians, have been arrested and detained by...police in the last month in a campaign of intimidation", according to The Independent of London, which cites information from e-mails.

The newspaper claims that one doctor, an intensive care specialist, was held after she was photographed weeping over a dead protester. Another was arrested in the theatre room while operating on a patient.

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