Mideast engulfed by 'Day of Rage' protests

Image: Anti-government protest clash with police in Baghdad
Iraqi anti-government protesters throw stones and trash at riot police during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday.Hadi Mizban / AP
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Hundreds of thousands of people staged protests in countries across the Arab world Friday, some trying to shake off autocratic rulers and others pressuring embattled leaders to carry out sweeping reforms.

"Big day for protests today in #Egypt, #Yemen, #Bahrain — and of course, #Libya. History on steroids!" Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, .

"Maybe I should start over and list places NOT having major demonstrations today. Hmm. Antarctica?" he added, after followers pointed out the events in Iraq.

Here's a look at some of the events that unfolded Friday, billed as a "Day of Rage," in eight Arab countries:

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.

Thousands march on government buildings and clash with security forces in cities across Iraq. Twelve 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.

epa02601392 Yemeni anti-government protesters attend the Friday prayer during a protest in Sana'a, Yemen, on 25 February 2011. At least nine people were wounded after security forces opened fire at anti-government protesters in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden on 25 February, witnesses said. Seven people were wounded after police opened fire at demonstrators in Khur Maksar, a journalist said by phone. Meanwhile tens of the thousands of government backers and anti-government protesters attended separate rallies in the capital Sana'a. EPA/YAHYA ARHABYAHYA ARHAB / EPA

Security forces open fire on thousands of demonstrators in the southern port city of Aden, wounding at least 19 people, in the latest confrontation with crowds pressing for the U.S.-backed president's ouster. Tens of thousands of protesters march in different parts of the country. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has promised to step down after national elections in 2013, but the demonstrators want him out now.

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.

CAIRO, EGYPT - FEBRUARY 25: Soldiers pray on top of a tank during anti-government protests and Friday prayers in Tahrir Square Feburary 25, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. Hundreds of Egyptians attend a rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square calling for an end to the long running state of emergency and to demand the Egyptian cabinet step down. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

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.

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.

Police in Tunis fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in the center of the capital. Demonstrators massed in front of the Interior Ministry to call for the ouster of the interim government that has run Tunisia since strongman ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled Jan. 14 and fled into exile. Tunisia has been relatively calm since Ben Ali's ouster.

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.

Thousands chanted Friday that they won't leave until they see Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, one of the Mubarak-era holdovers, removed from office.

Some waved Libyan flags show support for the uprising in the North African country next to Egypt.