April 3, 2011 / 5:59 AM / in 6 years

REFILE-UPDATE 1-Oman detained dozens during clashes -witnesses

* Prosecutor says knives, teargas, water cannon used

* Sohar quiet on Saturday under clampdown

(Refiles to fix currency conversion in paragraph 13)

(Adds activist quotes, details)

MUSCAT, April 2 (Reuters) - Security forces detained between 50 and 60 protesters in clashes on Friday in the Omani industrial town of Sohar, witnesses said on Saturday.

The violence came three days after a crackdown to clear a Sohar roundabout where about 100 protesters had camped out.

“They arrested between 50 and 60 people (on Friday) who were throwing stones at the security forces, some as young as 17,” one of the Sohar protesters, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said on Saturday.

Oman’s general prosecutor said demonstrators had wielded knives and stones, and security forces responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Some of the protesters shot back at the security forces, he said in a statement carried by state media.

Witnesses said the crowds were dispersed by water cannon.

The town was quiet on Saturday and under a security clampdown.

“Sohar is full of security and military men and there are frequent inspections,” an activist told Reuters in Dubai by email. “There are no protests or sit-in in Sohar today. A sit-in would be the fastest way to end your life.”

A 25-year-old man injured by a rubber bullet in Friday’s clashes died in hospital. The activist said a second protester died on Saturday from wounds suffered on Friday.

The state prosecutor’s statement said five protesters were wounded, one critically.

Protests against autocratic rulers sweeping the region have not spared conservative and usually tranquil Oman, at the southeastern end of the Arabian peninsula. The ruling dynasty has long been backed by Washington and also has ties to Iran, a U.S. rival for influence in the region.

In the capital Muscat, about 150 people gathered outside the Shura Council, the elected chamber of parliament, late on Friday but there was no visible security presence, a Reuters witness said. A few dozen remained on Saturday.

Protests in Oman, which pumps out 864,000 barrels of oil a day, have focused on demands for better wages, jobs and an end to corruption. Many protesters have demanded that sacked government ministers be held accountable for corruption while they were in office.

Qaboos fired 12 ministers last month in an effort to appease protesters and ordered a series of reforms including a pay rise for civil servants and a 150 rial-a-month ($390) unemployment benefit for the jobless.

Some of the protesters at the roundabout on Friday had set up road blocks and were charging drivers tolls, saying they were jobless and needed the money, witnesses said.

Two roundabouts 15 km (nine miles) apart have been the centre of the protests in Sohar. Each was guarded by two armoured vehicles on Saturday.

Wealthy Gulf Arab oil producers launched a $20 billion aid package this month for their less prosperous neighbours, Oman and Bahrain, a measure intended to generate jobs and enable the two countries to upgrade housing and infrastructure.

Bahrain’s Sunni rulers have stepped up arrests of cyber activists and Shi‘ites, with more than 300 detained and dozens missing since security forces broke up pro-democracy street protests last month.

Bahrain imposed martial law and called in troops from fellow Sunni-ruled neighbours including Saudi Arabia to quell the protest movement led mostly by the state’s Shi‘ite majority.

Reporting by Saleh al-Shaibany and Gulf newsroom; Writing by Nick Macfie $1=.3850 Omani rial

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