Thursday, February 17, 2011

Anti-government protesters killed in Libyan clash

By SALAH NASRAWI, Associated Press Feb. 17, 2011

CAIRO – Libyan protesters seeking to oust longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi
defied a crackdown and took to the streets in four cities Thursday on what
activists have dubbed a "day of rage," amid reports at least 20
demonstrators have been killed in clashes with pro-government groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Libyan internal security forces
also have arrested at least 14 people. Hundreds of pro-government
demonstrators also rallied in the capital, Tripoli, blocking traffic in
some areas, witnesses said.

An opposition website and an anti-Gadhafi activist said unrest broke out
during marches in four Libyan cities Thursday. Organizers were using
social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to call for nationwide

"Today the Libyans broke the barrier or fear, it is a new dawn," said Faiz
Jibril, an opposition leader in exile.

Opposition website Libya Al-Youm said four protesters were slain by
snipers from the Internal Security Forces in the eastern city of Beyida,
which had protests Wednesday and Thursday. It's not clear when the
protesters were killed. The website also said there was a demonstration
Thursday in Benghazi, Libya's second-Largest city, and that security
forces had shot and killed six people with live ammunition.

Switzerland-based Libyan activist Fathi al-Warfali said 11 protesters were
killed in Beyida on Wednesday night, and scores were wounded. He said the
government dispatched army commandos to quell the uprising.

Libya Al-Youm said that protesters set out Thursday after the funeral for
those killed a day earlier toward the State Security building, chanting
"Free Libya, Gadhafi get out!"

Mohammed Ali Abdellah, deputy leader of the exiled National Front for the
Salvation of Libya, said that hospitals in Beyida were complaining of a
shortage in medical supplies, and that the government has refused to
provide them to treat an increasing number of protesters.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

AFP/Mahmud Turkia

Abdellah quoted hospital officials in the town as saying that about 70
people have been admitted since Wednesday night, about half of them
critically injured by gunshot wounds.

Gadhafi's government has moved quickly to try to stop Libyans from joining
the wave of uprisings in the Middle East that have ousted the leaders of
Egypt and Tunisia. It has proposed the doubling of government employees'
salaries and released 110 suspected Islamic militants who oppose him —
tactics similar to those adopted by other Arab regimes facing recent mass

An autocrat who has ruled for more than 40 years, Gadhafi also has been
meeting with tribal leaders to solicit their support. State television
reported Tuesday that Gadhafi spoke with representatives of Ben Ali tribe,
one of Libya's biggest clans and one that has branches in neighboring

The official news agency JANA said Thursday's pro-government rallies were
intended to express "eternal unity with the brother leader of the
revolution," as Gadhafi is known.

Witnesses in the capital said many government supporters were raising
Libyan flags from their cars and chanting slogans in favor of Gadhafi.
They said it was otherwise business as usual in the capital and stores
remained open.

But protests already have turned violent.

Al-Warfali, head of the Libyan Committee for Truth and Justice, said two
more people were killed in another city, Zentan, on Thursday while one
protester was killed in Rijban, a town about 75 miles (120 kilometers)
southwest of Tripoli, where power was shut down Wednesday night and
remained off Thursday.

He said protesters on Thursday in the coastal city of Darnah were chanting
"the people want the ouster of the regime" — a popular slogan from
protests in Tunisia and Egypt — when thugs and police attacked them from a
vegetable market.

A video provided by al-Warfali of the scene in Zentan showed marchers
chanting and holding a banner that read "Down with Gadhafi. Down with the

Another video showed protests by lawyers in Benghazi on Thursday demanding
political and economic reform while a third depicted a demonstration in
Shahat, a small town southwest of Benghazi.

The Libyan government maintains tight control over the media and the
reports couldn't be independently confirmed.

Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition group in that country as it has
been in Egypt, denounced the crackdown.

In a statement Wednesday night, it accused "the security forces and
members of the revolutionary committees of using live ammunition in
dispersing the protesters." The group demanded that "the Libyan regime
rein in its (security) apparatus."

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