Friday, February 18, 2011

Libya protests: massacres reported as Gaddafi imposes news blackout

Opposition says 61 killed as diplomats report use of heavy weapons in Benghazi and rumours sweep the country

Ian Black and Owen Bowcott, Friday 18 February 2011

"Libyans have taken to the streets and buried their dead, accusing government forces of perpetrating massacres in Benghazi and other towns said to have been taken over by anti-regime protesters.

Opposition sources claimed that at least 61 protesters had been killed in three days of unprecedented unrest largely in Libya's impoverished eastern region, though it was not possible to confirm that figure.

Human Rights Watch reported that 24 people had been killed by Thursday.

Diplomats reported the use of heavy weapons in Benghazi, Libya's second city, and "a rapidly deteriorating situation" in the latest Arab country to be hit by serious unrest.

Amid a near-total official news blackout, fragmentary information and a ban on journalists entering Libya, there was a blizzard of rumours and claims about killings by mercenaries and defections by members of the security forces.

In one highly significant development, prisoners were reported to have escaped en masse from al-Jadida jail in the capital, Tripoli, which has so far been calm.....

Amer Saad, a political activist from Derna, told al-Jazeera: "The protesters in al-Bayda have been able to seize control of the military airbase in the city and have executed 50 African mercenaries and two Libyan conspirators. Even in Derna today, a number of conspirators were executed. They were locked up in the holding cells of a police station because they resisted, and some died burning inside the building.

"This will be the end of every oppressor who stands with Gaddafi. Gaddafi is over, that's it, he has no presence here any more. The eastern regions of Libya are now free regions. If he wants to reclaim it, he will need to bomb us with nuclear or chemical bombs. This is his only option. The people have stood and said they will not go back."....."

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