Libyan forces in the eastern city of Benghazi fired machine guns at thousands of
mourners during a funeral for slain anti-government protesters on Sunday, a day
after commandos and foreign mercenaries loyal to longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi
attacked demonstrators with assault rifles and heavy weapons.
Sunday, members of a Libyan army unit told Benghazi residents that they had
defected and “liberated” the city from pro-Gaddafi forces, according to two
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Habib al-Obaidi, who heads the intensive care unit
at the city’s main Al-Jalae Hospital, and lawyer Muhammad al- Mana told Reuters
that members of the “Thunderbolt” squad had arrived at the hospital with
soldiers wounded in clashes with Gaddafi’s personal guard.
“They are now
saying that they have overpowered the Praetorian Guard and that they have joined
the people’s revolt,” Mana said by telephone.
A doctor at one Benghazi
hospital where many of Sunday’s casualties were taken said 20 people had been
US-based Human Rights Watch said 173 people died – mostly in
Benghazi – during three days of unrest from Thursday through
The latest numbers brought the toll to at least 204 since
Wednesday, although a precise count has been difficult because of Libya’s tight
restrictions on reporting.
Sunday also marked the entry of Morocco into
the ranks of Arab popular uprisings, as thousands demonstrated in cities across
the North African kingdom demanding a new constitution and democratic
The crackdown in oil-rich Libya is shaping up to be the most
brutal repression of the anti-government protests that began with uprisings in
Tunisia and Egypt. The protests spread quickly, and have even reached outside
the Middle East to places that include the east African nation of Djibouti and
Because of the government-imposed media blackout, information
about the Libyan uprising, which follows 40 years of authoritarian rule, has
come through telephone interviews, along with videos and messages posted online,
and through opposition activists in exile. The blackout has made it difficult to
confirm the numbers of dead and wounded, but the unrest has spread to more than
half a dozen cities.
Benghazi, the second largest with some 1 million
people, has been at the center of unrest.
A man shot in the leg Sunday
said marchers were carrying coffins to a cemetery in the city and were passing
by the compound when security forces fired in the air and then opened up on the
crowd. The doctor who put Sunday’s death toll at 20 said his facility was out of
supplies and could not treat more than 70 wounded.
The latest violence in
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
They were burying 35 marchers who were slain Friday by
On Sunday, defiant mourners chanted: “The people
demand the removal of the regime,” which had been a mantra for protesters in
Egypt and Tunisia.
The US-based Arbor Networks reported another Internet
service outage in Libya just before midnight Saturday night. The company said
online traffic in the North African country had stopped at about 2 that morning
and was restored at reduced levels several hours later, only to be cut off again
People in Libya also said they could no longer make
international telephone calls on their land lines.
demonstrators shouted slogans calling for economic opportunity, educational
reform, better health services and help in coping with the rising cost of living
during a march on the central Hassan II Avenue in the capital, Rabat.
main target of Sunday’s rallies was parliament, where many Moroccans fear their
voices are not heard.
Still, the protests are likely to put pressure on
King Mohammed VI, who has been seen as a reformer compared to his iron-fisted
father, Hassan II, but still holds absolute authority.
A sea of white
banners covered Casablanca’s rain-splattered Mohammed V square, where young men
in baseball caps and hoods joined young women in Islamic head scarves and
middle-aged women in black-rimmed glasses and earrings in the diverse
Plainclothes police mingled among the demonstrators in Rabat,
though police were generally discreet. There were no immediate reports of
clashes between protesters and authorities.
The so-called “February 20
movement” was largely summoned through social media like Facebook. But the open
call to demonstrate also caused confusion, as disparate political and religious
groups elbowed their way in and sought to reshape a protest movement to serve
their own ends.
One youth-led group initially behind the call to march –
whose name translates as the Freedom and Democracy Now Movement – canceled plans
to take part on Saturday, saying the movement had been hijacked by leftist
political parties and Islamists seeking to infuse ideology and faith
The official news agency MAP cited a “weak turnout” – including
2,000 both in Rabat and the northeastern city of Beni Bouayach; 1,000 in each of
Casablanca, Al Hoceima and Targuist; and 900 in the tourism city of Marrakech –
although an Associated Press reporter in Rabat estimated the turnout there at
3,000 to 5,000. Organizers put the turnout outside the parliament building at
Meanwhile, Yemen’s embattled president sought a way out of the
political crisis gripping his impoverished Arab nation, offering to oversee a
dialogue between his ruling party and the opposition to defuse the ongoing
standoff with protesters demanding his ouster.
The offer by the US-backed
Ali Abdullah Saleh came Sunday as protests demanding that he step down continued
for the 11th straight day, with 3,000 university students demonstrating Sunday
in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital.
The protests pose the most serious
challenge to Saleh’s rule to date. He has already made a series of concessions,
pledging that his son would not succeed him and that he would not seek another
term in office. On Sunday, he repeated his offer for
“Dialogue is the best means, not sabotage or cutting off
roads,” Saleh, in office for more than 30 years, told a news conference. “I am
ready to sit at the negotiating table and meet their demands if they are
The Yemeni leader also warned about “infiltrators” seeking
to divide Yemenis and sabotage the country.
Saleh’s rule continues to
show signs of resilience in the face of the sustained protests that have seen
security forces and regime supporters battling demonstrators, most of them
university students. The regime, however, is not doing as well in the south of
the country, where resentment of Saleh’s rule is far more entrenched and a
secessionist movement is steadily gaining strength.
There have been
deadly clashes there between protesters and security forces using live
ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas. South Yemen used to be an independent
nation, but became united with the north in 1990. An attempt by the South to
secede in 1994 was brutally crushed by Saleh’s army and allied
Yemen is a tribal society where almost every adult male has a
A decision by the country’s major tribes to take sides in the
standoff between Saleh and his critics could decide the president’s
On Saturday, riot police fired on marchers in Sana’a, killing one
and wounding five. A total of seven people have been killed since the unrest