1 dead as Libyan forces crack down on anti-gov't riots

Gadhafi's forces fire on mourners in eastern city of Benghazi, wipe out protest encampment, clamp down on Internet services.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 19, 2011 18:41
2 minute read.
Pro-Gadhafi supporters gather in Green Square.

Libya protests 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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CAIRO — Moammar Gadhafi's forces fired on mourners in the eastern city of Benghazi, wiped out a protest encampment and clamped down on Internet service throughout Libya Saturday as the regime tried to squelch calls for an end to the ruler's 42-year grip on power.

Snipers fired on thousands of people gathered in Benghazi, a focal point of the unrest, to mourn 35 protesters who were shot on Friday, a hospital official said. At least one person was killed Saturday and a dozen more shot in the head and chest, he said.

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Libyan protesters were back on the street for the fifth straight day, but Gadhafi has taken a hard line toward the dissent that has ripped through the Middle East and swept him up with it.

"Now we have youth coming to the hospital to donate blood," he said. "We are running out of supplies."

Like most Libyans who have talked to The Associated Press during the revolt, the hospital official spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Before Saturday's violence, Human Rights Watch had estimated at least 84 people have been killed.



Just after 2 a.m. local time in Libya, the US-based Arbor Networks security company detected a total cessation of online traffic in the North African country. Protesters confirmed they could not get online.

About 5 a.m. Saturday, special forces attacked hundreds of protesters, including lawyers and judges, camped out in front of the courthouse in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city.

"They fired tear gas on protesters in tents and cleared the areas after many fled carrying the dead and the injured," one protester said over the phone.

Doctors in Benghazi said Friday that 35 bodies had been brought to the hospital following attacks by security forces backed by militias, on top of more than a dozen killed the day before. Standing in front of Jalaa Hospital morgue, a witness said that the bodies bore wounds from being shot "directly at the head and the chests."

Residents of the city set up neighborhood patrols on Saturday, after police left the streets.

"We don't see a single policeman in the streets, not even traffic police," a lawyer in Benghazi said. People regarded the disappearance of the police as an ominous sign, fearing that pro-government forces would soon follow up the encampment raid with house-to-house attacks.

Switzerland-based Libyan activist Fathi al-Warfali said that several other activists had been detained including Abdel-Hafez Gougha, a well-known organizer who was being held after security forces stormed his house in a night raid.

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