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Antigovernment unrest continues to rattle Mideast nations

A look at antigovernment protests, political unrest and key developments in the Middle East on Friday:

Yemen

Soldiers opened fire at antigovernment protesters in northern Yemen, killing four people and wounding seven as demonstrations against longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh again turned deadly.

Tens of thousands turned out in cities across the country, calling for the ouster of Saleh, a key U.S. ally in the campaign against the al-Qaida terror network. He has promised to step down after national elections in 2013, an offer rejected by protesters.

Witnesses said the shootings in the town of Harf Sofyan occurred as soldiers tried to disperse thousands who took to the main street for Friday prayers.

Soldiers in an army post opened fire with heavy machine guns, believing the protesters were trying to attack the post, according to the witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal.

Protesters threw rocks at the troops and called for Saleh to step down, shouting: "Leave!

Egypt

Hundreds of Egyptian protesters attempted to storm a building belonging to the internal security service in Alexandria on Friday in an outpouring of anger at the agency blamed for some of the worst human rights violations during ousted President Hosni Mubarak's rule.

Officers inside opened fire on the crowd, injuring three demonstrators, according to a medic and one of the protesters.

Tensions remain high even as Egypt's military, which took control of the country after Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11, takes steps to meet the protesters' demands before a promised return to civilian rule. One of the protesters' key remaining demands is for the dismantling of Egypt's State Security Agency.

Earlier Friday, crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square celebrated the military's choice of a new prime minister to replace the one Mubarak had appointed. The new premier, Essam Sharaf, was carried on the shoulders of demonstrators to a podium in the square, where he promised the estimated 10,000 people he would do his best to meet their demands.

Tunisia

Tunisia's new premier says he will soon present a new Cabinet to help get beyond the renewed bout of violence in the North African country that led his predecessor to quit, and pull his country back from the "abyss."

Beji Caid-Essebsi's announcement is the latest step by Tunisia's interim leaders to stabilize the country after longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled amid protests in January — sparking unrest across the Arab world.

Bahrain

Thousands of antigovernment demonstrators chanting slogans against the Sunni dynasty streamed toward the headquarters of Bahrain's state television after sectarian clashes between Sunnis and the majority Shiites leading protests in the strategic gulf nation.

The street fighting underscored the tensions building after nearly three weeks of unrest that has left the tiny island kingdom in a stalemate between the Sunni monarchy and Shiite-led demonstrators who claim widespread discrimination and demand a greater voice in national affairs.

Iraq

Thousands of Iraqis rallied in Baghdad and other cities in antigovernment demonstrations despite security checkpoints and a vehicle ban that forced many to walk for hours to the heart of the capital. Most of the protests were peaceful, but police used water cannons against demonstrators in the southern city of Basra and beat some journalists covering the demonstrations. The protesters want improved government services, better pay and an end to corruption in Iraq.

Antigovernment unrest continues to rattle Mideast nations 03/04/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 4, 2011 10:59pm]
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