Death toll reaches 86 in Libya: Rights groups

Libyan security forces had shot dead at least 86 people in the past three days according to rights groups, as protests continue llargely in the east

Death toll reaches 86 in Libya: Rights groups

Libyan security forces killed 35 people in the eastern city of Benghazi late on Friday, Human Rights Watch cited witnesses and hospital sources as saying, in the worst unrest of Muammar Gaddafi's four decades in power.

Protests against Gaddafi's rule this week, inspired by uprisings in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, were met with a fierce crackdown, but restrictions on media have made it difficult to establish the full extent of the violence.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the killings on Friday took to 84 its estimate for the death toll over three days of protests -- most of its focused in the restive region around Benghazi, 1,000 km (600 miles) east of Tripoli.

It said the deaths in the city on Friday happened when security forces opened fire on people protesting after funeral processions for people killed in earlier violence. There has been no official word on the number of dead.

"We put out a call to all the doctors in Benghazzi to come to the hospital and for everyone to give blood because I've never seen anything like this before," the group quoted a senior hospital official in Benghazi as saying.

"Special forces who have a very strong allegiance to Gaddafi are still fighting desperately gain to control, to gain ground and the people are fighting them street by street," said a resident of Benghazi identified as Mohammed by the BBC.

The broadcaster said residents in Benghazi reported there was no electricity in parts of the city and that tanks were stationed outside the court building.

Amnesty: 46 killed by Libyan security forces

Human rights group Amnesty International said on Friday its sources had said Libyan security forces had shot dead at least 46 people in the past three days.

Amnesty said in a statement sources at al-Jala hospital in Benghazi had reported 28 deaths and more than 110 people injured in Thursday's protests in the city, and at least three further deaths on Friday.

Local human rights activists reported at least 15 deaths on Thursday during protests in the nearby town of Al Bayda, an Amnesty International spokeswoman said.

"This alarming rise in the death toll, and the reported nature of the victims' injuries, strongly suggests that security forces are permitted use lethal force against unarmed protesters calling for political change," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"The Libyan authorities must immediately rein in their security forces. Those responsible for unlawful killings and excessive force -- both the direct perpetrators and those who gave the orders -- must be identified and brought to justice," he said in the statement.

Amnesty said the sources at al-Jala hospital in Benghazi had told it the most common injuries were bullet wounds to the head, chest and neck.

Big crowds defy police crackdown

Thousands protested in Libya's second city, Benghazi, on Friday in the worst unrest of Muammar Gaddafi's four decades in powe.

The privately-owned Quryna newspaper said that in Benghazi thousands of residents gathered for the funeral processions of 14 protesters killed in clashes there. Thousands more gathered in front of Benghazi court building.

Opposition activists said protesters were fighting troops for control of the nearby town of Al Bayda, scene of some of the worst violence over the past two days, where townspeople said they were burying 14 people who were killed in earlier clashes.

Residents said that by evening the streets were calm but there were conflicting accounts about whether opposition activists or security forces were in control of the town.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was "deeply concerned" about reports of violence from Bahrain, a close U.S. ally, Libya and Yemen and urged governments to show restraint in dealing with protesters.

Ashour Shamis, a London-based Libyan journalist, said protesters had stormed Benghazi's Kuwafiyah prison on Friday and freed dozens of political prisoners. Quryna said 1,000 prisoners had escaped and 150 had been recaptured.

Al Jazeera signal jammed

The BBC said one Benghazi protester said some soldiers had switched sides and that people clambered unopposed onto three tanks.

"The soldiers say we are citizens of this country and we cannot fight our citizens," he said.

Tight government control and media restrictions have limited the amount of information emerging about the unrest.

Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera said its signal was being jammed on several frequencies and its website had been blocked in Libya.

The privately owned Quryna newspaper said that in Benghazi thousands of residents had gathered on Friday for the funeral processions of 14 protesters killed in clashes there. Thousands more had demonstrated in front of Benghazi court building.

Opposition activists said protesters fought troops for control of the nearby town of Al Bayda, scene of some of the worst violence over the past two days, where townspeople said they were burying 14 people who were killed in earlier clashes.

Residents said that by Friday evening the streets were calm but there were conflicting accounts about whether opposition activists or security forces were in control of the town.

The unrest though was not on a national scale with most protests confined to the east around Benghazi, where support for Gaddafi has traditionally been weak. There were no reliable reports of major protests elsewhere, and state media said there had been pro-Gaddafi rallies in the capital. CALM IN TRIPOLI

Quryna newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying the General People's Congress, or parliament, would adopt a "major shift" in government policy including appointing new people to senior positions. It gave no details and the sources could not be clarified.

A sermon at Friday prayers in Tripoli, broadcast on state television, urged people to ignore reports in foreign media "which doesn't want our country to be peaceful, which ... is the aim of Zionism and imperialism, to divide our country".

Text messages sent to mobile phone subscribers thanked people who ignored calls to join protests. "We congratulate our towns which understood that interfering with national unity threatens the future of generations," it said.

Last Mod: 19 Şubat 2011, 10:35
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