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Mon 28 Feb 2011 07:48 PM

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Oman supermarket set alight and looted by protesters

Looters stack shopping trolleys with food, electronics as anti-government protests escalate

Oman supermarket set alight and looted by protesters
Omani protesters demand jobs and reform during a demonstration in Sohar (Getty Images)
Oman supermarket set alight and looted by protesters
Protesters watch as Lulu Hypermarket in Sohar burns
Oman supermarket set alight and looted by protesters
Oman protesters cheer outside the smouldering house of the governor of Sohar
Oman supermarket set alight and looted by protesters
Hundreds of Omanis took to the streets to demand jobs, better wages and political reforms

Men and women casually looted a smouldering supermarket in Oman's main industrial centre on Monday, after police disappeared in the wake of violent protests in the normally placid Arab state.

"It's a free for all," said one man who watched while people grabbed all they could find - from food to metal sheets and electronic goods - and piled their hauls into trolleys at the Lulu Hypermarket at a road junction in the port of Sohar.

The looting followed protests on Sunday night when Omanis demanding jobs and political reforms clashed with police, throwing stones and setting government buildings and part of the market ablaze. A doctor said six people died in the clashes, although the health minister said only one person had died.

All afternoon, women walked in and out of the supermarket taking away food and drinks. One was seen stacking up slightly burned cartons of eggs, powdered milk, orange juice and cream cheese on her trolley and calmly leaving the supermarket.

"There's no security.....I want to live," said a 28-year-old Omani, who identified himself as Youssef, walking away with 10 bottles of juice in his long traditional Arab robe.

Another man dragged a big sheet of aluminium, loading it onto a trolley of food and walking off from the supermarket, next to the Globe Roundabout on the main road linking the capital Muscat to northern Oman.

Security forces and police were nowhere to be seen.

Plumes of smoke emanated from the destroyed portion of the store on Monday morning, and three fire engines sprayed water to douse a small part of the store that was still burning at noon.

Protesters in Sohar are demanding political reform and an end to unemployment in the oil-producing country, ruled for the past four decades by Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

As more people gathered at the Globe Roundabout, some called for an end to the looting.

"Yes, yes to reform. No, no to looting," a group of about 200 Omanis chanted as they marched around the area.

Not everyone adhered to the call. "Yes, yes to looting," one man said as he walked into the supermarket.

"This style is not good," said Ahmed Rashid Saeed al Mukbari, a 27-year old Omani, watching the looters helplessly. "If they want change, they should demand it but not do this."

The five-year old supermarket will remain closed until calm returns to the country, according to the firm that runs it.

"We will wait for things to cool down," said Yousuffali Abdul Khader, managing director of the Lulu Hypermarket chain, who is based in the UAE. He said the store employed about 300 Omanis and 200 expatriates.

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Rajesh 9 years ago

Disgraceful!! These are common petty thieves not protesters!!

Ana 9 years ago

These looters should be held liable and pay for the damage that they have casued. Nobody should be above the law and do as they please and get away with it. Now they have also added another 500 people to the unemployment statistics by burning down the centre..well thought out!

PA 9 years ago

With this kind of behavior, it'll soon be difficult to distinguish between thugs and protesters. Wonder why the police were not around to at least to maintain some law and order and to prevent looting? Sad to see Oman descending into such anarchy, and hope it stops immediately.

By all means, protest peacefully for your rights if corrective actions are required, but don't let citizens break the laws of the country.

Mick 9 years ago

I love Oman and the Omani people are sincerely warm and kind from my experience but what is happening???
These uprisings are becoming so unnecessary. They went from Defcon 4 to Defcon .01 on a scale of appropriateness.
Tunisia had an original idea. Ok, at least since Cuban, Polish, French and Russian Revolutions. It was warranted. Ben Ali needed to go, the Tunisian people recognized this and he was ousted. Lebanon took a crack at it. Egypt finally had a 30 year fire lit inspired by Tunisia and got rid of Mubarek. A little messier than needed but done, finito. Now with Libya..another long overdue flush. Even messier...but almost over. Ok, but what is happening with Bahrain and Qatar and Oman??? Is it really necessary?? You can't have gold toilet seats and diamond iphones for all?? A travesty? Injustice? Is this really necessary? I mean, being sincere and honest with yourselves...an uprising/coup is really that necessary?

james joyce 9 years ago

how come everyone here who is 'shocked' seems to be a well paid expat who CANNOT even speak arbic? talk about integration.....the locals need jobs too....half of your salary would employ 3 of them....give the omani's a break or feel free to leave.

sandpiper 9 years ago

Mick,
Put yourself in their shoes. They are ruled by an absolute monarch, technically a dictator as he has full power to make and change any law in the land. They are born, they live their lives and die, without ever having any political freedom to express themselves and right the wrongs.
Every country in the region has different reasons why sectors of their populations are frustrated, but they are united in their lack of political freedom which prevents them from venting that frustration. Like a pressure cooker without a valve, when the pressure gets too much they will explode.

Mazen 9 years ago

Mick,

If you have even been to Bahrain, I doubt that you left a major road to go to your hotel and eat / drink. Maybe hit the malls and clubs?

Had you gone into the neighborhoods or if you really understood the situation in Bahrain, you would not have made your ignorant comments including "You can't have gold toilet seats and diamond iphones for all??". That statement alone shows that you know absolutely nothing about Bahrain and probably much less about Oman.

Red Snappa 9 years ago

Sadly 6 people are killed and it fans the flames, martyrdom has led to every regime change thus far and so it goes on. There are some pretty impoverished segments of the Omani population out there, they need jobs, a decent pay packet, a way to buy a home, a political voice with people that they feel really represent their interests.

This is the ancien regime in France, keep a royal family, but distinct from a parliament, the lines are blurred at the moment, the world has changed and the region needs reform to effectively operate on equal terms at a global level. Throwing money at the problem is one way but a temporary plaster on an open wound. Sadly when people die, the weight of responsibility shifts and those who control must take the blame.

Bob 9 years ago

It is all to apparent that the only real "VISION" that any of the rulers have is how best to keep all of the countries wealth (generated by the working people) to themselves and their families. Power to the ordinary people just trying to survive from day to day. God bless them.

Prabhu 9 years ago

What guarantee for better future? What if one of these looter or his boss replaces the existing ruler? They will end up a tyrant ruling them. History reveals so much about these revolutionary leaders who came to power with this kind of riots looted billons of dollars given as charity for the poor and development of their country and leave it with their family and girlfriends.