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Heavy security prevents protests in Oman
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 08 - 04 - 2011

SOHAR, Oman - Heavy security prevented fresh protests after Friday prayers in the Omani city of Sohar, where protesters camped out for over a month before security forces moved them out last week.
Checkpoints were set up across the northeastern industrial city with dozens of armoured vehicles blocking access to protest areas. Residents' names were checked against a list and access to mosques was restricted, while a helicopter flew overhead, witnesses said.
Demonstrations in Oman, inspired by protests that have spread across the Middle East and toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, have focused on demands for better wages, jobs and an end to corruption. Many protesters have demanded the state prosecute sacked ministers for corruption.
"Worshippers have been restricted from going to Friday prayers because of so many checkpoints," one resident said. Asked if there would be further protests in the area, he said: "I don't think so."
Another resident said: "There are at least a dozen checkpoints in Sohar, more than three times what there were last Friday."
Omani activists using emails and text messages called for a a Friday demonstration against the killing of at least one and wounding of eight others when security forces crushed a crowd of stone-throwing protesters last week. Witnesses later said that between 50 and 60 protesters were detained last week.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled the once sleepy sultanate for 40 years, has embarked on a series of reforms since protests began.
He promised in March to cede some legislative powers to the partially-elected Oman Council, an advisory body. At present, only the sultan and his cabinet can legislate and a transfer of powers has yet to be announced.
The Sultan also ordered a grant of 150 rials ($375) unemployment benefit. He raised civil service pay and pensions of government employees and doubled social security allowances.


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