Sunday, February 20, 2011

More protests, death toll in Libya now stands at 173 at least

Death of a young protester in Benghazi.

Tens of thousands gathered in Benghazi on Sunday for funerals of protesters killed by Libyan security forces as Human Rights Watch said overnight violence had doubled the death toll from four days of clashes to 173.
The BBC contacted a woman doctor in Beghazi by the name of Braikah, who described how casualties brought to the city's Jala hospital mostly had gunshot wounds. "Ninety per cent of these gunshot wounds [were] mainly in the head, the neck, the chest, mainly in the heart," she said. She said the Jala hospital mortuary had 208 bodies and another hospital had 12. However, it is not clear whether all of these bodies stem from Saturday's violence.
The unrest is the worst ever during Muammar Qadhafi´s 42 years in power. There are no reporters in the city (they are not allowed). The only news therefor comes from witness accounts. They suggst that Benghazi is in a cycle of violence, where people are killed and then, after funeral processions to bury the dead the next day, security forces shoot more protesters.
One Benghazi resident reached by telephone by Reuters on Sunday said that security forces had used heavy weapons. He added that many soldiers and policemen have joined the protests.Another witness, a leading tribal figure who requested anonymity, suggested the security forces remained confined to their control center.
´The state's official presence is absent in the city and the security forces are in their barracks and the city is in a state of civil mutiny," he told Reuters. ´People are running their own affairs. Human Rights Watch said about 90 people had been killed on Saturday in Benghazi and surrounding towns, taking the death toll from four days of clashes to 173. 

Conflicting accounts were given over poor phone lines but it appeared the streets were under the control of protesters while security forces had pulled back to a high-walled compound, known as the Command Center, from where they were firing. One witness said: ´We will not give up until the regime falls. We call on the United Nations to intervene. Another witness in Benghazi told Reuters thousands of people had performed ritual prayers in front of 60 bodies laid out near Benghazi's northern court. He said hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children, had come out onto the Mediterranean seafront and the area surrounding the port. "The protesters are here until the regime falls," he said.
Reports are beginning to emerge of protests in the capital, Tripoli, but information is scarce and difficult to confirm. One woman, Sara Radwan, told the BBC the situation in the city was "very tense and very scary".
"Tripoli is very important, it's got people from all over Libya. Everybody's watching and waiting. Gaddafi makes us sick. This is a war," she said.

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