Omani forces arrest protesters after clashes

Sat May 14, 2011 3:51am EDT
 
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MUSCAT (Reuters) - Omani security forces arrested dozens of protesters demanding jobs and higher salaries in Salalah on Saturday, witnesses said, after a wave of arrests in the southern port city in recent days.

Security forces had on Thursday fired shots in the air to push out protesters camped outside the provincial governor's office, destroying their tents and arresting dozens and possibly hundreds. Fresh clashes in Salalah erupted again on Friday.

"Security forces used their batons and took away protesters in three army buses," one witness, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters by telephone.

The violent clashes between security forces and protesters continued until the early hours of Saturday.

"The security forces are still there this Saturday morning to make sure no protester comes back. But we hear that most of the people arrested on Thursday have been released," another witness said.

Protesters have focused on demands for more jobs, better wages and an end to graft. They have also urged more democratic reforms in the conservative sultanate.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a U.S. ally who has ruled Oman for 40 years, promised a $2.6 billion spending package in April after nearly two months of demonstrations inspired by popular Arab uprisings across the Arab world.

Many protesters have been unsatisfied with Sultan Qaboos' response to their demands, saying the changes have been partial or too slow.

Earlier this week, Omani police arrested six people involved in a demonstration demanding jobs and higher wages in the eastern town of Jaalan Bani Bu Ali.

(Reporting by Saleh al-Shaibany; Writing by Martina Fuchs)