'Protesters in Libyan capital torch government buildings'

As violence spreads to Tripoli in 7th day of ongoing unrest, more than 200 people dead, according to medical officials; EU officials prepare for evacuation of Europeans from country.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 21, 2011 13:46
2 minute read.
People gather during unrest in Benghazi

Libya protests men climbing 311. (photo credit: AP)

Violence in Libya escalated Monday as thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in Tripoli. Eyewitness reports said that protesters had torched public buildings in the capital overnight.

One of the buildings that was set on fire was the General People's Congress, or parliament, which meets when it is in session in the capital.

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Demonstrators have reportedly taken control of much of the eastern city of Benghazi, but hospitals are struggling to cope with the number of casualties, with reports from medical officials suggesting the death toll has reached 200.

Also on Monday, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called for an end to violence in Libya saying the demands of Arab people for change are legitimate, Reuters reported.

"The demands of the Arab peoples for reform, development and change are legitimate and ... the feelings of all the (Arab) nations are joined in this decisive moment in history," MENA cited Moussa as saying.

Witnesses said protesters and security forces battled for control of Tripoli's city center overnight, with snipers opening fire and Moammar Gadhafi supporters shooting from speeding vehicles.



Three witnesses said protesters Sunday night moved into Tripoli's central Green Square and nearby squares. Plainclothes security forces and militiamen attacked in clashes that lasted until dawn.

One witness said snipers opened fire from rooftops, while two others said gunmen in vehicles with photos of Gadhafi sped through, opening fire and running people over. The witnesses reported seeing casualties, but the number could not be confirmed.

EU ministers set to condemn violence

European Union foreign ministers were expected to condemn the violence used by security forces against anti-government protesters in Libya, according to the draft of a joint statement to be agreed at their meeting later on Monday, Reuters reported.

A draft statement made available to the news agency read: "The Council condemns the ongoing repression against peaceful demonstrators in Libya and deplores the violence and the death of civilians."

"Freedom of expression and the right to assemble peacefully are fundamental rights of every human being which must be respected and protected," the statement continued.

The minister said they will prepare for the evacuation of Europeans from Libya, with several ministers also expressing concerns about a possible massive increase in the flow of illegal migrants from North Africa in the wake of the unrest.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called for a "Marshall Plan" for affected Mediterranean countries to stimulate their economies and provide job opportunities for young people.

A report on Monday suggested that a senior Libyan military official has been put under house arrest under the direct order of the ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

According to the report by London based paper Arabic language paper Al-Sharq, the senior army man was put under house arrest after he refused to obey an order to beat demonstrators.


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