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Up to 84 dead in Libya protests: Human Rights Watch

Col Gaddafi’s government has been accused of perpetrating massacres as part of a violent crackdown on demonstrations against his 42-year-rule.

A strong contingent of Libyans gathered at Hyde Park Corner to demonstrate against their leader Gaddafi, demanding that he step down.
A strong contingent of Libyans gathered at Hyde Park Corner to demonstrate against their leader Gaddafi, demanding that he step down.
Image: Demotix / Alex Milan Tracy/Demotix/Press Association Images

A LEADING HUMAN rights organisation has said that as many as 84 people have been killed in violent clashes between anti-government protesters and the army in Libya.

Demonstrations against Col Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule have been concentrated in Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi.

Many journalists have been blocked from the area and Gaddafi’s government has vowed to “violently and thunderously” repress any further protests, according to the pro-government Al-Zahf Al-Akhdar newspaper – however reports suggest that street demonstrations are continuing.

Electricity and internet services have been cut in a bid to prevent information being spread, with Al-Jazeera Arabic and Facebook being blocked according to the BBC.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that as many as 84 people have been killed in protests in Benghazi and four other cities – al-Bayda, Ajdabiya, Zawiya, and Darnah. Diplomats have reported the use of heavy weapons in Benghazi and citizens have come out to accuse the government of perpetrating massacres, according to the Guardian.

In Tobruk, crowds were shown destroying a statue of Gaddafi’s Green Book and chanting “We want the regime to fall”. Meanwhile, outside the main courthouse in a square in Benghazi thousands gathered to call for Gaddafi to be deposed – with one protester describing the leader’s rule as “the biggest dictatorship in history” to CNN.

A senior hospital official told HRW: “We put out a call to all the doctors in Benghazi to come to the hospital and for everyone to contribute blood because I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Indications that some factions of the army are taking the protesters’ side have emerged: one protester told the BBC that soldiers had joined the demonstrations. “The soldiers say we are citizens of this country and we cannot fight our citizens,” he said.

Meanwhile, pro-government demonstrations have been taking place in the capital, Tripoli.

Gaddafi is the longest-serving leader in the Arab world, having taken control of Libya in a 1969 coup.

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