Oman death toll rises to six as protests continue

Roads to Sohar blocked by at least 1,000 demonstrators, supermarket in flames
Oman death toll rises to six as protests continue
Oman protesters cheer outside the burned house of the governor
By Reuters
Mon 28 Feb 2011 10:09 AM

Six people were killed in Oman on Sunday, a government hospital said, after police opened fire with rubber bullets at protesters demanding political reform.

Earlier reports on Sunday had put the death toll at two.

The roads to Gulf state's key industrial area Sohar, home to a refinery port and aluminium factory, are blocked by protesters and the city's Lulu supermarket has been set on flames, witnesses said on Monday.

At least 1,000 protesters gathered Sunday for a second day of protests in a Sohar square, before police tried to disperse them first with tear gas and batons and then rubber bullets.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, trying to ease tensions in the normally sleepy Gulf state as Arab unrest spread in the region, reshuffled his cabinet on Saturday, a week after an earlier protest in the capital Muscat.

Protests were also taking place in the southern town of Salalah where demonstrators have been camped out since Friday near the office of a provincial governor.

After the clashes in Sohar, police pulled back from the protest and the crowd, some of whom were carrying petrol and matches, was making its way to a police station, said one witness, who gave his name only as Mohammed. Helicopters circled overhead.

Witnesses said at least eight people had been hurt in the melee in addition to the two fatalities. Roadblocks had been set up on a main road between Sohar and Muscat, they said.

Gulf Arab countries have stepped up measures to appease their populations following popular unrest that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.

Last week, about 300 Omanis demanded political reforms and better pay in a peaceful protest in Muscat as unrest in other Middle East countries and North Africa turned increasingly violent.

In mid-February, the sultanate increased the salary for national workers in the private sector by 43 percent to $520 per month. There is no official unemployment rate, but a CIA estimate from 2004 put the rate then at about 15 percent.

For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.