Two protesters shot dead in Oman as turmoil spreads

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Muscat, Feb 27 (AFP) Omani police shot dead twodemonstrators with rubber bullets today as the deadly wave ofprotest rocking the Arab world spread to the normally placidpro-Western sultanate, a security official said.

Five people were also wounded when the security forcesopened fire on the demonstrators who tried to storm a policestation, the official said.

"Two were killed after being shot with rubber bulletsas protesters attempted to storm a police station," in Sohar,some 200 kilometres northwest of Muscat, the official saidrequesting anonymity.

State news agency ONA confirmed that there had beencasualties in Sohar, saying that police and anti-riot forceshad clashed with demonstrators.

"Police and anti-riot squads confronted this group ofwreckers in a bid to protect people and their properties,which caused casualties," it said.

The police station targeted by the protesters is nearEarth Roundabout, where some 250 demonstrators have beenholding a sit-in, witnesses told AFP.

The demonstrators have dubbed the intersection "ReformRoundabout," as they press for change in the Gulf sultanatewhose ruler Qaboos has been in power for four decades.

The protesters, who were mostly unemployed have beendemanding jobs, better salaries and measures to curbcorruption, the witnesses said.

For decades the sultanate was an isolated countryliving on the margins of the modern world, but the 2010 UNHuman Development Report released in November said Oman madethe most improvement since 1970 out of 135 countries.

Previously, the sultanate had been largely spared thedeadly turmoil that has swept the Arab world since the ousterof Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popularuprising.

Around 300 Omanis, including women, staged a peacefulrally in central Muscat on February 18 to demand an increasein salaries and political reforms.

But the demonstrators have emphasised their loyalty tothe ruler with placards declaring: "We are always loyal toyou, Sultan Qaboos."That rally was the second of its kind in the sultanatein the past two months, after about 200 demonstrators took tothe streets on January 17 in protest against rising prices andcorruption. (AFP)

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