A look at the anti-government protests in seven Arab countries today:
>> LIBYA: Militias loyal to ruler Moammar Gadhafi open fire on thousands of protesters in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. One man says gunmen on rooftops and in the streets open fire with automatic weapons and even an anti-aircraft gun. Witnesses report at least four killed, while other say the toll is higher. In the evening, Gadhafi appears before a crowd of more than 1,000 supporters in Tripoli and urges them to fight protesters and “defend the nation.” Tripoli is the center of the eroding territory that Gadhafi still controls. The uprising that began Feb. 15 has swept over nearly the entire eastern half of the country, breaking cities there out of his regime’s hold.
>> IRAQ: Thousands march on government buildings and clash with security forces in cities across Iraq. Eleven people are killed in the largest and most violent anti-government protests in the country since political unrest began spreading in the Arab world. In the capital of Baghdad, demonstrators knock down blast walls and throw rocks. The protests are fueled by anger over corruption, chronic unemployment and shoddy public services from the Shiite-dominated government.
>> YEMEN: Tens of thousands rally in the main square in the capital of Sanaa in one of the largest gatherings since anti-government protests erupted earlier this month. A Muslim preacher urges protesters to keep marching until President Ali Abdullah Saleh has stepped down.
>> EGYPT: Tens of thousands jam Cairo’s main square. They are trying to keep up pressure on Egypt’s military rulers to carry out reforms and call for the dismissal of holdovers from the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Demonstrators say they are worried the army is not moving quickly enough on reforms, including repealing emergency laws and releasing political prisoners.
>> BAHRAIN: Tens of thousands fill the central square of Bahrain’s capital, Manama. Protesters have taken to the streets every day for the past two weeks, asking for sweeping political concessions from the ruling monarch. Security forces make no attempt to halt the marches.
Bahrain is the first Gulf state to be thrown into turmoil by the Arab world’s wave of change. The unrest is highly significant for Washington because Bahrain sits at the center of its military framework in the region.
>> JORDAN: About 4,000 protesters rally in the capital, Amman, the largest crowd yet in two months of unrest. The leader of Jordan’s largest opposition group warns that patience is running out with what he called the government’s slow steps toward reform. King Abdullah II, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, has so far failed to quiet the calls for sweeping political change. The protesters want a bigger say in politics and for the prime minister to be chosen through elections, not by the king.
>> SAUDI ARABIA: About 300 Shiites protest against the Sunni-led government in a march in the east of the country. They disperse peacefully under the close watch of Saudi security forces. The kingdom had been largely quiet, and its ruler earlier this week promised a massive package of economic aid, including interest-free home loans, in hopes of forestalling unrest.