Monday 28 February 2011
SOHAR, Oman - Government buildings and cars set on fire, smouldering supermarket looted. At least two dead in riots
SOHAR, Oman, Feb 28 (Reuters) - 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.
Sunday 27 February - (Reuters) - Omani police fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing protesters demanding political reform on Sunday, killing two people, and demonstrators set government buildings and cars ablaze, witnesses said.
Hours after the violence, Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, gave an order to create 50,000 jobs for citizens in the Gulf Arab state of 2.7 million people, 70 percent of whom are nationals.
All detained protesters were later freed, state media said.
The trouble in the northeastern port of Sohar, Oman's main industrial center, was a rare sign of discontent in the normally sleepy sultanate and followed a wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world.
Witnesses said more than 2,000 protesters had gathered for a second day in a square in Sohar demanding political reforms, more jobs and better pay before police tried to disperse them, first with tear gas and batons and then rubber bullets.
"Two people have died after police fired rubber bullets into the crowd," one witness told Reuters from Sohar. A third person was reported in critical condition after being shot.
Another witness said earlier police had used live ammunition, but that could not immediately be confirmed. Troops deployed in the area, but did not intervene, witnesses said.
Posted by sysiphus at 11:57