Security forces in Libya and Yemen have fired on pro-democracy demonstrators as the two hardline regimes struck back against the wave of protests that has already toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia.
At least 15 died when police shot into crowds of mourners in Libya's second-largest city, a hospital official said.
Even as Bahrain's king bowed to international pressure and withdrew tanks to allow demonstrators to retake a symbolic square in the capital, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh made clear they plan to stamp out opposition and not be dragged down by the reform movements that have grown in nations from Algeria to Djibouti to Jordan.
Libyans returned to the street for a fifth straight day of protests against Gaddafi, the most serious uprising in his 42-year reign, despite estimates by human rights groups of 84 deaths in the North African country - with 35 on Friday alone.
Saturday's deaths, which would push the overall toll to 99, occurred when snipers fired on thousands of mourners in Benghazi, a focal point of unrest, as they attended the funerals of other protesters, a hospital official said. "Many of the dead and the injured are relatives of doctors here," he said. "They are crying and I keep telling them to please stand up and help us."
Earlier, special forces had attacked hundreds of demonstrators, including lawyers and judges, who were camped out in front of a courthouse in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city. Authorities also cut off the internet across Libya, further isolating the country. Just after 2am local time yesterday, the US-based Arbor Networks security company detected a total cessation of online traffic. Protesters confirmed they could not get online.
Throughout the Middle East, protesters have been crying out for weeks against a similar litany of injustices - repressive governments, corrupt officials and pathetic wages among them. Government responses seem to be hardening. While there was violence during the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, the government retaliation in Yemen and Libya in particular appeared to be more sustained.
In Yemen's capital Sanaa, riot police opened fire on thousands of protesters, killing one anti-government demonstrator and injuring five others on a 10th day of revolt against Saleh, a key US ally in fighting al Qaida.
As on other days earlier this week, protesters marching from Sanaa's university were met by police and government supporters with clubs and knives who engaged in a stone-throwing battle with the demonstrators. At one point, police fired in the air to disperse the march. A medical official said one man was shot in the neck and killed, raising the total death toll from Yemen protests to seven.
In the tiny island nation of Bahrain, thousands of joyful protesters streamed back into the capital's central Pearl Square after the armed forces withdrew from the streets following two straight days of a bloody crackdown. The royal family, which was quick to use force earlier this week against demonstrators in the landmark square that has been the heart of the anti-government demonstrations, appeared to back away from further confrontation following international pressure.