Crowds in Bahrain Mourn Dead, Protests Continue in Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq

BY Francine Uenuma  February 18, 2011 at 10:00 AM EST

Updated 1:00 p.m. ET

According to witnesses, security forces have fired shots on anti-government protesters and released tear gas in Pearl Square, the main gathering point for many of the demonstrators. The latest clashes have grown in the hours after mourners walked the streets of Manama for the funerals of those killed in the protests. An estimated 50 people have been injured, according to Salmaniya hospital officials, as thousands march at Pearl Square in the city’s center. The area has had a heavy army presence in response to a crackdown on the demonstrations.

Some witnesses claim the shots were fired from snipers or helicopters. The bullets and tear gas caused chaos and confusion as people began fleeing as gunfire erupted.

All mass public gatherings were banned Thursday, the day police raided a camp during pre-dawn hours.

Bahraini men mourn during the funeral Friday for Mahmud Mekki, 23, who was killed the day before during a violent police raid on protesters in the village of Sitra, east of Manama. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Updated noon ET

According to witnesses, security forces have fired shots on anti-government protesters and released tear gas in Pearl Square, the main gathering point for many of the demonstrators. The latest clashes come after mourners walked the streets of Manama for the funerals of those killed in the protests.

The area around Pearl Square has had a heavy army presence in response to a crackdown on the demonstrations.

Posted 9:45 a.m. ET

Thousands of marchers took to the streets of Bahrain for the funerals of victims killed during recent clashes, heightening anti-government sentiment in the Persian Gulf island nation that has seen a rare flare up of protests this week. Many are calling for the overthrow of the longstanding al Khalifa monarchy.

A top Shiite cleric added his weight to the protesters’ message, calling the pre-dawn raid on encamped demonstrators a “massacre.” The country has a majority Shiite population and a Sunni monarchy. The coffins of two of the men killed were driven through the streets draped in flags.

Pro-government demonstrators could also be seen in Manama, the capital. There has been a heavy army presence around Pearl Square, with tanks and security forces blanketing the area and helicopters seen overhead.

The situation in Bahrain has presented diplomatic challenges for the United States, which headquarters the Navy’s 5th fleet there.

In Yemen, clashes continued into their second week as pro-government protesters encountered those calling on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave office. Police fired warning shots into the air in the capital, Sanaa, in an effort to disperse the demonstrators. There were also reports of a grenade explosion in Hurriya Square.

Yemen is also an established ally of the United States, receiving military aid to assist in combating al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, which is loosely headquartered there. The government has faced rebel groups in the north and south. Widespread poverty is fueling the discontent.

Saleh’s pledge not to seek reelection in 2013 has not slowed the protests.

Libya’s coastal city of Benghazi was the hub of another day of reportedly large protests, as marchers gathered around the city’s courthouse, chanting anti-government slogans. There were reports of 14 people killed in the clashes, though the estimates were difficult to confirm. Funerals of those killed are expected Friday, which could fuel the anti-government sentiment.

Protests have not yet infiltrated the capital, Tripoli, although the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, appeared at a pro-government gathering in the city’s Green Square. Gaddafi has been in power since 1969, making him the region’s longest-standing ruler.

Although Egypt’s uprising resulted in to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, protesters filled the symbolic Tahrir Square again Friday to keep pressure on the country’s military leadership as they move to enact promised democratic reforms and amend the country’s constitution.

The government has already arrested four associates of Mubarak in an apparent move to investigate charges of corruption. The military also dissolved parliament.

Despite the celebratory mood, the new rulers have already faced pressure from labor strikes and a heavily damaged economy in the wake of the upheaval. Many are demanding higher pay after years of disparity.

In Iraq, two people were killed when police fired back at demonstrators who were throwing rocks in the Kuridsh city of Sulaymaniyah. Three people were also killed in the city of Kut, 60 miles from Baghdad.

The latest violence comes during a wave of protests spurred by corruption, basic services and high unemployment.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called on security forces to use restraint and described the protesters’ demands as “legitimate.” The demonstrations add to the list of woes facing the coalition government.

Five people were wounded in Jordan, as supporters and opponents of the government clashed in Amman. King Abdullah II has enacted some reforms in the face of recent protests, which have been smaller and more peaceful than those seen in other parts of the region but have been exacerbated by the country’s economic woes.