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02-18-2011, 11:53 AM
Arab capitals braced for violence as unrest spreads

Killing of demonstrators in Bahrain and violence in Libya threaten an escalation of regional unrest

Bahraini demonstrator lies injured on a stretcher Bahraini demonstrator lies injured on a stretcher as unrest continues throughout the region. Photograph: Hassan Ammar/AP

Arab capitals are expecting further violent clashes after the killing of three demonstrators in the Gulf state of Bahrain, and the reported death of 15 people in violence in Libya, threatened an escalation of regional unrest in the wake of the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Fresh protests are expected today after Friday prayers in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, in Cairo (in celebration of Hosni Mubarak's departure a week ago), and in Sana'a, capital of the Yemen, and perhaps elsewhere.

Britain announced a review of licences granted for arms exports to Bahrain which it would "urgently revoke" if the sales criteria had been breached in their use, after it emerged that types of crowd-control weapons similar to those used in the crackdown were supplied by British companies. Despite concerns among activists over Bahrain's rights record, British firms were last year granted licences, entirely unopposed, to export crowd-control weapons that can lead to fatalities in use.

Meanwhile the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, telephoned her Bahraini counterpart to express "deep concern" after riot police stormed a protest camp in central Manama, killing three people in what the opposition called a "massacre".

Bahrain is situated in the Gulf near Iran and is home to the US Fifth Fleet and also to the UK command which supports Royal Navy warships in the region. The island has a history of volatility because its Shia Muslim majority is ruled by a Sunni monarchy. William Hague, the foreign secretary, told MPs: "We have conveyed our concern about these events and the level of violence.]

Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/17/arab-capitals-braced-violence-bahrain)