Four dead ahead of Libya’s Day of Anger

2011-02-17 08:59

Tripoli – At least four people were killed in clashes with Libyan security forces, opposition websites and NGOs said today, as the country faced a nationwide Day of Anger called by cyberactivists.

The websites and a Libyan rights group based in London said the clashes with demonstrators opposed to the regime of Libya’s leader, Muammar Gadaffi, took place yesterday in the eastern town of Al-Baida.

“Internal security forces and militias of the Revolutionary Committees used live ammunition to disperse a peaceful demonstration by the youth of Al-Baida, leaving at least four dead and several injured,” according to Libya Watch.

The scale of today’s protests will be a test for Gadaffi, 68, who has been in power since 1969, but whose counterparts in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia have been toppled in uprisings over the past month.

A Facebook group urging a Day of Anger in Libya, which had 4 400 members on Monday, saw that number more than double to 9 600 by yesterday following the Benghazi unrest.

Quryna newspaper said security forces and demonstrators already clashed late on Tuesday in Benghazi, also eastern Libya, in what it branded the work of “saboteurs” among a small group of protesters.

The director of the city’s Al-Jala hospital, Abdelkarim Gubeaili, said that 38 people were treated for light injuries.

Security forces intervened to halt a confrontation between Gadaffi supporters and the demonstrators, said the paper, which is close to Gadaffi’s son, Seif al-Islam.

Both Britain and the European Union called for restraint by the authorities in Libya, whose relations with the West have improved sharply over the past decade after years of virtual pariah status.

The European Union urged Libya to allow “free expression”.

“We also call for calm and for all violence to be avoided,” said a spokeswoman for the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said: “I call on the Libyan government to respect the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.

“We are concerned by reports of the arrest of Libyans who have called for demonstrations or spoken to the media and of violent incidents during demonstrations in Benghazi,” he added.

In the aftermath of the Benghazi protests, activists were rounded up in the opposition stronghold yesterday, an informed source said.

Amid rivalry on the streets, pro-Gadaffi demonstrations were held in the capital yesterday, on the eve of today’s protests to mark the deaths of 14 protesters in an Islamist rally in Benghazi in 2006.

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