Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Anti-regime protests spread closer to the Libyan capital today and new fighting erupted in the flashpoint city of Benghazi, as Human Rights Watch said it feared a catastrophe with more than 170 people dead in an iron-fisted crackdown. Libyan security forces clashed with anti-regime protesters in the Mediterranean city of Misrata. Demonstrators took to the streets there to support residents of second city Benghazi, 1,000 kilometres east of Tripoli, who have endured the brunt of a crackdown in eastern Libya. The security forces, backed by "African mercenaries," had shot into the crowds "without discrimination. In London, Human Rights Watch said at least 173 people had died since Tuesday. In eastern Libya, Islamist gunmen stormed a military depot and the nearby port of Derna on Wednesday and Friday and seized weapons and vehicles after killing four soldiers. Britain has deplored what it branded a "horrifying" crackdown, and US President Barack Obama has condemned the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen. France called the government response "unacceptable" and "totally disproportionate," and people in London and Cairo protested against Muammar Gaddafi who has ruled the oil-rich North African country for four decades. In the face of outside criticism, Libya warned Europe it would stop cooperating in the fight against illegal immigration if the European Union does not stop encouraging pro-democracy protests. Meanwhile, the son of Libya's strongman Muammar Gaddafi warned on Monday the country would be destroyed by civil war if protests end his father's rule, in a speech broadcast as bursts of gunfire broke out in Tripoli. The turbulence gripping the Arab world following the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia also spread to Morocco, where thousands rallied for change across the country. Gaddafi, 68, who renounced terrorism and declared in 2003 that he was giving up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction to try to improve ties with the West, has made no public comment since the deadly protests erupted. The growing turmoil in Libya came as protesters set up more tents in the main square in Bahrain's capital, increasing the pressure on the Bahraini royal family to offer some real reforms.


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