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Wednesday
Feb202013

Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Clashes Continue as Regime Claims Arrest of "Iran-Iraq-Lebanon Terror Cell"

"Third-day" funeral of 16-year-old Hassan AlJazeeri, killed by police on Thursday night

See also Syria Live Coverage: A "Humanitarian Tragedy"
Tuesday's Tunisia (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Plan for New Government Collapses


1755 GMT: Saudi Arabia. Thirty Saudi women have become the first female members of the Shura Council, as they were sworn in before King Abdullah at his palace in the capital Riyadh.

The women are among 160 members of the advisory body.

"The development we are working at must be gradual," King Abdullah said. He recommended that the Council show "realism" in its discussions and allow "reason to prevail in issues [with which] it has to deal".

On 11 January, the King appointed the women, who include university graduates, human rights activists, and two princesses.

1749 GMT: Palestine. The Forum of Palestinian journalists has criticised Israeli forces for detaining three Palestinian journalists on Tuesday in Bethlehem.

The three men are Mamdouh Hamamreh, a reporter for the Al-Quds satellite channel; Samer Hamad, a cameraman for Palmedia news agency, and Abdul-Rahman Younos, a reporter for Al-Quds.com.

The arrests follow the claimed abduction of Mohamed Saba’na, a political caricaturist for Al-Hayat Al-Jadida newspaper, after his return from a ocnference in Jordan.

1742 GMT: UAE. Back from an extended academic break to find the claim of the rights group Reprieve that three British men who were on holiday in Dubai were beaten and subjected to electric shocks following their arrest last summer.

The trio are still being held in the UAE on drugs charges. Reprieve claims the men signed documents in Arabic --- a language none of them understands --- after being subjected to beatings, threatened by having guns put to their heads, and, in the case of one, having electric shocks administered to the testicles.

The men were arrested on 10 July 2012 by police who claimed to have found a quantity of a synthetic cannabis known as "spice" in their car. They have pled not guilty and will appear at their first hearing on Thursday.

1004 GMT: Tunisia. Tuesday's collapse of efforts to form a new Cabinet, with the resignation of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, has been followed by a downgrade in the country's international credit rating.

Jebali stepped down after the failure to get approval of the Government of technocrats that he announced two weeks ago in the wake of the assassination of opposition political Chokri Belaid.

Standard & Poor's lowered the Tunisian Government from BB to BB-, the third downgrade since the overthrow of the Ben Ali regime in January 2011.

Unemployment is at around 18%, with a 10% inflation rate. Tunisia's economy contracted by 1.8% in 2011. It grew 2.4% in 2012, but S&P said it sees no recovery in 2013:

We expect lower tourism receipts, combined with a widening trade deficit, to result in current account deficits that will remain in excess of 5% of GDP through 2016.

We anticipate that Tunisia's economic recovery will be slow, particularly given the weak economic conditions in the EU.

0854 GMT: Egypt. The Government, facing an exhaustion of funds for subsidised fuel, has announced price increases of up to 50% for some sectors.

Protests have already arisen, for example by several hundred people in the brick manufacturing industry, over the move.

The Government spends about $7.4 billion in subsidies for diesel fuel alone each year. It is under pressure to reduce subsidies to secure a vital $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan.

The new prices are for all industries other than bakeries, electricity producers, and food manufacturers to be named by the Ministry of Industry.

The Government also plans to start rationing subsidised gasoline through a system of smart cards at the beginning of July, the Minister of Petroleum said Monday.

0729 GMT: Mali. A French soldier and more than 20 Islamist insurgents were killed on Tuesday, in the first clashes in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range where the insurgents have moved after their withdrawal from towns in northern Mali.

French President Francois Hollande said fighting was continuing in the remote area that straddles the Mali-Algeria border: "At this moment we have special forces that are in an extremely precarious zone of the Ifoghas. It's where the terrorist groups that we stopped before have pulled back to."

After France launched its intervention from 11 January, French and Malian Government forces reclaimed towns and cities, held by insurgents since last April, across the north.

0719 GMT: Bahrain. One of the eight men named in the "terror cell" arrests is Ali Sanqoor, who defiantly stood in front of Bahraini fores in 2011 near Pearl Roundabout, holding up a Qur'an:

0628 GMT: Bahrain. The escalation in clashes between security forces and protests, which began last Thursday, continued yesterday with fighting around the "third-day" funeral of Hassan AlJazeeri, killed on Thursday night by police.

Security forces challenged the funeral procession, using tear gas, and then moved into AlDaih village, pursuing demonstrators, moving residents off the streets, and even aiming weapons at photographers.

Meanwhile, young men continued their attempt to reach Pearl Roundabout, the symbolic centre of the mass protests that began in February 2011. They got as close as 1.5 kilometres (.9 miles) to the site, closed off by police after it was overrun in March 2011 and the iconic monument was destroyed.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to portray the challenge to the regime as one of foreign-backed terrorism, the Ministry of Interior released a lengthy statement claiming that eight men arrested from late January --- but whose detentions were only declared on Saturday --- were a "terror cell" planning to attack "a series of sensitive locations and public figures...to destabilize the nation's security and economy". They said the Bahrainis, three of whom live in Oman, werre part of the   "Army of Imam" and linked to Iranian, Iraqi, and Lebanese groups:

The training took place in Iranian Revolutionary Guard facilities and Iraqi Hezbollah facilities in Karbala and Baghdad. The Chief said that members of the cell received a total of $80,000 provided to them by the mastermind of the operation, a man nicknamed Abunasser who is an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Clashes in AlDaih, including the tear-gassing of a woman's car:

Police vehicle moving through the village:

A police officer fires at protesters, including a cameraman:

People trying to reach Pearl Roundabout last night:

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