Hundreds dead in Libyan anti-government protests

Human Rights Watch puts death toll at over 100; witnesses claim troops fired heavy weapons on civilians from fortified compound.

Libya protests 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Libya protests 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
At least 20 demonstrates were killed overnight Saturday in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, a rights watchdog said. Reuters reported that witnesses saw security forces firing heavy weapons at civilian protesters from a fortified compound nearby.
The New York-based Human Rights watch has reported that the clashes from last night brought the total death toll in Libya, centering on Benghazi and the surrounding towns, to over 100.
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A doctor in the Libyan city of Benghazi said Sunday that his hospital has seen the bodies of at least 200 protesters killed by Moammar Gadhafi's forces over the last few days. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears reprisal.
Benghazi has been a center of a six-day revolt by Libyans inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and frustrated by Gadhafi's more than 40 years of authoritarian rule.
The doctor said the hospital, one of two in Libya's second-largest city, is out of supplies and cannot treat more than 70 wounded who were hit in the attacks and need attention.
"I am crying," the doctor said. "Why is the world not listening?"
Getting concrete details about the protests in Libya has been difficult because journalists cannot work freely inside the country. Information about the uprising has come through telephone interviews, along with videos and messages posted online, and through opposition activists in exile.
The US-based Arbor Networks reported another Internet service outage in Libya just before midnight Saturday night. The company said 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.
According to several accounts, police in Benghazi initially followed orders Saturday to act against the protesters, but later joined with them because they belong to the same tribe and saw foreign mercenaries taking part in the killings.
"People are defiant here and they are ready to die," said a women on the phone from Benghazi. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, as did other witnesses.