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Sunday, February 20, 2011
The Brave People of Libya
At least 104 people have been killed in Libya since anti-government protests erupted on Wednesday, the campaign group Human Rights Watch says.
It said the figure included at least 20 people who died when troops reportedly used heavy weapons in the second city, Benghazi, on Saturday.
The group said its estimates were conservative.
Thousands of people in the east of the country have been protesting against Col Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule.
Libya is one of several Arab countries to have experienced pro-democracy demonstrations since the fall of long-time Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was forced from power on 11 February.
Reports are difficult to verify as Libyan authorities have not allowed foreign journalists into the country.
In Benghazi - the main focus of the unrest - violence escalated on Saturday, when a funeral procession for victims of previous violence made its way past a major security compound.
Witnesses said troops used machine-guns, mortars, large-calibre weapons, and even a missile, against the mourners.
Opposition supporters said the attack was unprovoked, although security sources suggested some protesters threw firebombs at the compound.
Some described scenes of chaos as army snipers shot from the roofs of buildings and demonstrators fought back against troops on the ground.
Bodies in the streets
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Mid-East unrest: Libya
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has led since 1969
Population 6.5m; land area 1.77m sq km
Population with median age of 24.2, and a literacy rate of 88%
Gross national income per head: $12,020 (World Bank 2009)
Country profile: Libya
One doctor told the BBC that at least 45 bodies and 900 injured people had been brought to Benghazi's Jala hospital - most of them with gunshot wounds.
"Ninety percent of these gunshot wounds [were] mainly in the head, the neck, the chest, mainly in the heart," she said.
She added that she has been in contact with other Benghazi hospitals, which she says were overwhelmed by casualties and have not been able to count the dead.
She said some of the victims had been shot outside their homes by neighbourhood militias and bodies had been dumped on the streets of the city.
There are reports that Col Gaddafi's government is bringing in elite forces, as well as foreign mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa.
Another Benghazi resident said the government compound was the only part of the town still under military control.
In an appeal sent to Reuters, a group of religious and clan leaders from across Libya urged "every Muslim, within the regime" or anyone helping it: "Do NOT kill your brothers and sisters, STOP the massacre NOW!"
There have been reports of anti-government protests in other eastern cities, including al-Bayda and Dernah, as well as Misrata further west, about 200km (125 miles) from the capital Tripoli.
There is no sign of major unrest in Tripoli, Col Gaddafi's main power base.
More at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-12482313