Oman protests: More unrest despite sultan's reform vow

A large supermarket in Sohar was set alight and looted

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Protesters have taken to the streets in the Gulf state of Oman for a third day to call for political reforms.

Hundreds of people blocked roads in Sohar, Oman's main industrial centre, while others maintained a vigil at a central roundabout.

A supermarket was set on fire by protesters and looted, and state property was damaged.

The new protests came a day after Oman's ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said promised to create more jobs.

He also announced a new ministerial committee to examine calls for more powers to be given to the elected consultative council.

Witnesses say two people were killed in Sunday's clashes, but the government has only confirmed one death.

Until now, Oman had mostly been spared the unrest which has affected other Arab states in recent months.

SULTANATE OF OMAN

oman map
  • Ruled by Al Said family since 1744
  • Sandhurst-trained Sultan Qaboos seized power from father in 1970
  • Population 2.9 million
  • Main export is oil

Sohar, Oman's second largest port, handles oil products equivalent to around 160,000 barrels of oil a day.

But a port spokeswoman told Reuters news agency exports were unaffected by the protests, despite an industrial area including the port, a refinery and an aluminium factory being blocked by demonstrators.

Protesters called for "the trial of all ministers" and the "abolition of all taxes".

There have been reports of protests in other cities. Reuters said two demonstrations were held in the capital Muscat.

At least one person died after being shot with rubber bullets as protesters tried to storm a police station on Sunday.

The oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman has been ruled by Sultan Qaboos since he seized power from his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur, in 1970.

There is an elected Consultative Assembly but not all Omani adults are eligible to vote in elections for the Assembly and it is purely advisory, with no legislative powers.

The oil-rich country is a popular tourist destination and a long-standing ally of the US and Britain.

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