Anti-government protests in Libya and the island nation of Bahrain turned violent Friday, as troops opened fire on protesters seizing control of important positions in both countries.
At least three people were killed when troops in Bahrain opened fire on protesters even as the king promised to negotiate with opposition, saying that Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa had been given "all the powers to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of all gracious citizens from all sections." The nation's leading Shiite cleric called the attacks a "massacre" as mosque crowds shouted "victory for Islam," "death for Al Khalifa [the ruling family]" and "we are your soldiers."
Protesters seized control of the Pearl Roundabout Thursday, a major road in the capital of Manama, and were violently removed by police. Bahrain's foreign minister Khalid al Khalifa told state television that troops had not deliberately opened fire on protesters and that called it a "regrettable accident." But he defended the move by police and the army as necessary to bring the nation back from "brink of a sectarian abyss." The nation's Shiite opposition also resigned from the parliament and later called for the resignation of national leaders and the formation of a new government.
Dozens of people were reported killed during clashes in Libya. Protesters claimed control of the city of al-Bayda, next to the nation's second largest city, Benghazi, where protests have been raging. They have also seized control of a government radio station in Benghazi and are broadcasting their message from it. Libya, which holds the rotating Arab League presidency, has also announced that the upcoming session next month will be delayed. However, the chief of the group, Egypt's Amr Moussa, claimed he had not heard of a formal request to change the date.
The response from a pro-government newpaper Al-Zahf Al-Akhdar, promised more violence. "Any risk from these minuscule groups [protesters] - this people and the noble revolutionary power will violently and thunderously respond," the paper said. "The people's power, the Jamahiriya [system of rule], the revolution, and Colonel Gaddafi are all red lines and those who try to cross or come near these lines are suicidal and playing with fire."
President Obama's response to the latest crisis was more sympathetic to the protesters than it was during the initial Tunisian and Egyptian protests. "I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur." Obama said. "The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests, and to respect the rights of their people."