Tens of thousands march across Arab world
Baghdad - The escalating revolt in Libya on Friday emboldened protesters across the Arab world, where tens of thousands flooded streets from Tunisia to Yemen to demand better lives and greater freedom.
Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi's crumbling Libyan regime staged a bloody fightback in western towns near Tripoli after the east declared itself free of his iron-fisted rule and opponents strung up effigies of the leader.
In Az-Zawiyah, 23 people were killed and 44 wounded when regime loyalists mounted a ferocious rearguard action against protesters in the key oil refinery town, Libya's Quryna paper reported.
Heavy fighting was reported in Libya's third city Misrata, and in Zouara, further west towards the Tunisian border, fleeing Egyptian workers said the town was in the control of civilian militias after fierce fighting.
The United Nations warned Libya's food distribution system was at risk of collapsing and from Cairo, state media reported that Kadhaf al-Dam, a close Kadhafi aide had resigned in protest against the handling of the crisis.
The protests sweeping the Middle East, which have already toppled Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, have been organised largely on social networking website Facebook.
They have united a disparate group of causes, railing against poor public services and demanding broader political reforms in some of the most corrupt countries in the world with strict censorship.
Stones, shoes and bottles
In Iraq, a "Day of Rage" against the government's failure to provide basic services left seven dead after the clashes in the north while thousands of protesters poured into Baghdad's Tahrir Square.
Angry young men threw stones, shoes and bottles at riot police and overturned two concrete walls that had been erected to seal off access to Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone, home to the US embassy.
"We don't want to change the government, because we elected them, but we want them to get to work!" said Darghan Adnan, a 24-year-old student.
"We want them to enforce justice. We want them to fix the roads. We want them to fix the electricity. We want them to fix the water."
Security forces fanned out in force and imposed a vehicle ban after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki claimed Al-Qaeda insurgents and loyalists of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein organised the demonstrations.
Across Yemen, tens of thousands demonstrated after the main weekly Muslim prayers to demand that veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.
In the capital, thousands poured into a main square near Sanaa University, many of them women, chanting "Out, out!" and "God bears witness to your acts, Abdullah".
The protesters have dubbed Friday "the beginning of the end" for Saleh's regime which has been in power in Sanaa since 1978.
"There is no solution unless the regime steps down," prayer leader Sheikh Abdullah Satar told the faithful over a megaphone.
In the main southern city of Aden, thousands more rallied but there were no immediate reports of violence despite near daily clashes that have killed 15 people and wounded scores in the country.
In Tunisia, tens of thousands rallied to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi's transitional government in the biggest rally since last month's ouster of Ben Ali.
Demonstrators chanted "Ghannouchi leave" and "Shame on this government" as army helicopters circled above what police estimated as 100 000 people.
In Bahrain, the anti-regime campaign entered a 12th day with a mass rally to honour seven victims of a deadly police crackdown last week.
The mainly Shi'ite protesters, demanding an end to two centuries of the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, gathered in a Pearl Square festooned with banners calling for reform and waved red-and-white national flags.
Jordan too braced for 10 000 members of the powerful Islamist opposition movement and other parties who were expected to march through central Amman for their own "day of anger" by deploying several thousand security forces.
The Islamic Action Front and the supporters of 19 political parties have called for the largest protest since January, calling for reforms and to denounce violence in which eight people were hurt at a rally last week.