News / Africa

Crackdown on Protesters Deepens in Libya

News reports say Libyan security forces fired shots Saturday to disperse a crowd gathered to mourn protesters killed in a government crackdown on demonstrations.

The Associated Press quotes a hospital official who says at least 15 people were killed in the incident Saturday, which took place in the city of Benghazi.

Earlier, Human Rights Watch estimated at least 84 people were killed in this week's crackdown on protests against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.  

The New York-based rights group said the toll included 35 people hospital sources say were killed by security forces in Benghazi.  It says most of them were killed with live ammunition.  

British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement Saturday urging Libya to stop using force against demonstrators. He condemned the violence, calling it "clearly unacceptable and horrifying." He also expressed concern about restrictions of media access.

Reports say Internet access in Libya was cut early Saturday in response to the days of protests calling for the removal of Mr. Gadhafi, who has been in power for four decades. Qatar-based al Jazeera television says some of its broadcasts were blocked.

Most of the protest activity is based in the eastern part of Libya. State media has shown footage of hundreds of government supporters demonstrating in the capital, Tripoli.

On Thursday, clashes broke out across the country in what anti-government activists called a "Day of Rage,"  inspired by uprisings in other Arab states.

Mr. Gadhafi has sought to defuse the protests, doubling the salaries of state employees and releasing 110 accused Islamic militants. But some of the rallies drew on much older grievances. They were first set off Tuesday night when police arrested a human rights lawyer representing the families of 1,000 detainees massacred in 1996 at the notorious Abu Salim prison in Tripoli.

Mr. Gadhafi took power in 1969 and has built his rule on a cult of personality and a network of family and tribal alliances.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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