Middle East Update: Brutal Crackdown in Bahrain, Rebels Down to Last Stand in Libya

The situation for protesters in Bahrain is worsening in the days since the royal family there called for Saudi troops to come in and help intervene with a defiant protest movement. The AP reports:

Wednesday's full-scale assault launched at dawn in Pearl Square, the center of the uprising inspired by Arab revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. Hours later, security forces were picking through burned debris and other remains of the protest camp.

In another area of Bahrain, one witness described police in a village "hunting" Shiites in what could be part of a wider campaign of intimidation.

The king's announcement Tuesday of a three-month emergency rule and the crackdown on Pearl Square sent a message that authorities will strike back with overwhelming force in the strategic island nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

Further reports had the security forces attacking doctors and staff at hospitals.

In Libya, the situation remained grim as well, with rebels making a last-ditch stand as forced moved in on their last stronghold with brutal swiftness, bombarding them indiscriminately. Also from the AP:

OBRUK, Libya — Moammar Gadhafi's forces overwhelmed rebels in the strategic eastern city of Ajdabiya, hammering them with airstrikes, missiles, tanks and artillery Tuesday in an assault that sent residents fleeing and appeared to open the way for an all-out government offensive on the opposition's main stronghold in the east, Benghazi.

In desperation, rebels sent up two antiquated warplanes that struck a government ship bombarding Ajdabiya from the Mediterranean. But as tanks rolled into the city from two directions and rockets relentlessly pounded houses and shops, the ragtag opposition fighters' defenses appeared to break down.

Only 10 days ago, the rebellion was poised to march on Tripoli, the capital, and had appeared capable of sweeping Gadhafi out after 41 years in power, but the regime's better armed and organized military has reversed the tide.

 

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at March 16, 2011, 3:53am

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