Libyan forces fired machine-guns at mourners in the eastern city of Benghazi Sunday, a day after commandos and foreign mercenaries pummeled demonstrators with assault rifles and other heavy weaponry.
Libyan security forces opened fire on mourners at a funeral for anti-government protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi again, a day after commandos and foreign mercenaries loyal to longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi attacked demonstrators with knives, assault rifles and other heavy weaponry.
A doctor at one city hospital said he counted 200 dead in his morgue alone since unrest began six days ago.
The crackdown in Libya is shaping up to be the most brutal repression of the anti-government protests that began with uprisings that toppled the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. The protests then spread quickly around the region to Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and outside the Middle East to places including the East African nation of Djibouti and even China.
The latest violence in the flashpoint city of Benghazi followed the same pattern as the crackdown on Saturday, when witnesses said forces loyal to Gaddafi attacked mourners at a funeral for anti-government protesters. The doctor at a Benghazi hospital said at least one person was killed by gunshots during the funeral march, and 14 were injured, including five in serious condition. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
A man shot in the leg Sunday said marchers were carrying coffins to a cemetery when they passed a military compound in Libya’s second-largest city. The man said security forces fired in the air and then opened up on the crowd.
Jamal Eddin Mohammed, a 53-year old resident of Benghazi, said thousands marched Sunday toward the city’s cemetery to bury at least a dozen protesters. They feared more clashes with the government when they passed by Gaddafi’s residential palace and the regime’s local security headquarters.
“Everything is behind that (Gaddafi) compound; hidden behind wall after wall. The doors open and close and soldiers and tanks just come out, always as a surprise, and mostly after dark,” he told The Associated Press by telephone.
The US-based Arbor Networks reported another Internet service outage in Libya just before midnight Saturday night. The company says online traffic ceased in Libya about 2 a.m. Saturday, was restored at reduced levels several hours later, only to be cut off again that night.
People in Libya also said they can no longer make telephone calls on their land lines.
Benghazi is 600 miles east of Tripoli, the capital of Libya, and a hotbed of anti-Gaddafi feeling.
Smaller protests were reported to have een staged Saturday night on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli, a stronghold of support for Gaddafi, but demonstrators were quickly dispersed by security men. Besides Tripoli and Benghazi, the US State Department in a travel warning to American citizens listed five other cities that have seen demonstrations.
Libya itself is one of the biggest oil and gas exporters in the world, with companies like BP cashing in on its reserves following a recent period of detente with the west.
However, the unemployment rate is at 30 per cent, housing is in short supply, and there is no recognised political opposition whatsoever.
While Gaddafi himself has managed to soften his image abroad by giving up support for terrorist groups including the IRA, he remains a hate figure for many domestically.
Ahmed, a pro-democracy campaigner in Tripoli, said: “He’s one of the most odious Arab dictators in the world – a real thug in a uniform who sees nothing wrong with killing people to achieve his goals. If this turns into a full-scale revolution then it will be the best thing which happened to Arab democracy.”
Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “I condemn the violence in Libya, including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators. This is clearly unacceptable and horrifying.”
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