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Arab world protests at a glance

A summary of Thursday's developments in the Arab world, as instability and anti-government protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia spread in the region.

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LIBYA:

Army units and militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi strike back against rebellious Libyans who have risen up in cities close to the capital, attacking a mosque where many were holding an anti-government sit-in and battling others who seized control of an airport. Medical officials say 15 people are killed in the clashes.

In a rambling phone call to state TV, Gadhafi accuses al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden of being behind the uprising. The Libyan leader says the revolt that began Feb. 15 has been carried out by young men hopped up on hallucinogenic pills given to them "in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe."

Meanwhile, two ships brave churning seas to get some 4,500 Chinese workers out of Libya to the island of Crete, while rough weather further west in the Mediterranean left hundreds of Americans stranded on a ferry in Tripoli.

Those who make it out describe a frightening scene: bodies hanging from electric poles in Libya's eastern port of Benghazi and militia trucks driving around full of dead bodies. One video shows a tank apparently crushing a car with people inside.

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BAHRAIN:

A government spokeswoman says a prominent opposition leader will not be arrested if he returns to Bahrain, but it remains unclear whether he is free to travel.

The possible return of Hassan Meshaima after months of voluntary exile in London could mark a new phase for the protest movement as the Gulf island's monarchy tries to open talks to end the most severe political crisis in decades in the strategic nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in the kingdom for meetings with ruling officials, a sign of Washington's deep ties to Bahrain.

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EGYPT:

Egyptian authorities arrest the country's former information minister and the chairman of state TV and radio on corruption allegations, the latest moves by the country's ruling military against senior officials of Hosni Mubarak's ousted regime.

The arrest of Anas al-Fiqqi, the ex-information minister and long-time confidant of Mubarak, and Osama el-Sheikh, the state TV boss, were widely expected. Al-Fiqqi was placed under house arrest earlier this month and el-Sheikh was banned from traveling abroad, steps that often precede a criminal investigation or a trial.

In south Cairo, an angry crowd of some 500 people torch two police cars and beat up a young officer who shot a minibus driver in the heat of an argument over the right of way. The incident highlights the tension between police and Egyptians, many of whom are still bristling over years of police brutality and corruption.

Meanwhile, Egypt's foreign minister confirms that former Vice President Omar Suleiman was targeted in an assassination attempt during the recent democracy uprising when assailants firing from an ambulance riddled his car with bullets. One of Suleiman's bodyguards was killed and his driver seriously wounded in the attack.

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JORDAN:

The U.S. Embassy issues a warning message to Americans to avoid potentially large anti-government protests in Jordan.

The country is bracing for nationwide demonstrations on Friday to protest against physical attacks by so-called "thugs." Eight activists were wounded in clashes with pro-government protesters last Friday.

Jordan has seen street protests in the last eight weeks, but with much smaller crowds than in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

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SAUDI ARABIA:

Influential intellectuals ask Saudi Arabia's monarch to adopt far-reaching political and social reforms.

In a statement, the group says that Arab rulers should derive a lesson from the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and listen to the voice of disenchanted young people.

The group includes renowned Islamic scholars, a female academic, a poet and a former diplomat.

The call comes amid Saudi Arabia's 86-year-old ruler's announcement of an unprecedented economic aid package, including interest-free home loans. The package, estimated at 135 billion Saudi riyals ($36 billion), is seen as an attempt to get ahead of potential unrest.

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YEMEN:

President Ali Abdullah Saleh says he has ordered his security services to protect protesters, stop all clashes and prevent direct confrontation between government supporters and opponents.

The directive comes at the end of the day when security forces in the southern port of Aden use tear gas and fired bullets in the air to disperse hundreds of protesters, and government supporters wielding clubs attacked demonstrators in the capital Sanaa.

Amnesty International says two people were killed in Sanaa, the first fatalities in the capital since unrest began about two weeks ago.

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ALGERIA:

Algeria officially lifts a state of emergency in place for the past 19 years.

The official APS news agency says the ordinance doing away with the restrictive measure is published in the Official Journal, a move that did away with it.

The Cabinet decided in a meeting earlier this week to take the step with the approval of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The state of emergency was put in place as Algeria embarked on an era of violence that ballooned into a deadly Islamist insurgency.