Thursday, April 7, 2011

Oman holds 3 over petrol bomb plan before protests

07 Apr 2011 20:40
Source: Reuters // Reuters
DUBAI, April 7 (Reuters) - Authorities in Oman have arrested three people for possessing material for making petrol bombs, state media said on Thursday, as the Gulf Arab state prepared for new demonstrations for jobs and reforms on Friday.
Residents said activists had sent mobile phone messages calling for protests in the northeastern port of Sohar, the main industrial centre, after midday prayers on Friday.
Last Friday, one protester was killed and eight were wounded when security forces opened fire on a crowd of stone-throwing protesters, days after police evicted reformists from two roundabouts where they were holding sit-ins.
Protests in traditionally tranquil Oman, which follow unrest elsewhere in the region, have focused on demands for better wages, jobs and an end to corruption.
Many protesters have demanded that the government prosecute long-serving ministers sacked in March for corruption.
The state news agency ONA named the three arrested men and said they had confessed to planning to make petrol bombs. ONA said authorities had earlier received intelligence that people were buying knives, ammunition and fuel "to use in riots".
Last Friday, government forces arrested up to 60 people. On Feb. 27, security forces opened fire on protesters in Sohar and killed a 38-year-old businessman.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled for 40 years, has embarked on a series of reforms since the protests started in mid-February.
He sacked 12 ministers and replaced five of them with members of the Shoura Council, an elected chamber of parliament with few powers that many protesters see as a legitimate assembly that should form the entire cabinet.
The sultan also ordered a grant of 150 rials ($390) to the jobless, raised civil service pay and government employees' pensions and doubled social security payments. (Editing by Tim Pearce) ($1=0.3851 rial)