19 Feb 2011

Libya: 84 killed as violence escalates

“People now are saying victory or death, we are not stopping”, one protestor tells Channel 4 News as Libyan special forces storm a protest camp in the country’s second largest city.

Special Forces reportedly stormed a protest encampment in the eastern city of Benghazi in the early hours of Saturday morning, attacking hundreds of people including lawyers and judges camped in front the courthouse.

One protester in Benghazi told Channel 4 News: “Four were killed today in Benghazi by Gaddafi’s African mercenaries in front of the court.

“What we know now is that the army is split – that is why he is using the mercenaries. And people now are saying vicotry or death, we are not stopping.”

He said scoares of army personnel are currently trying to stop people coming from neighbouring areas to support the people of Benghazi.

“Benghazi is now under siege,” he said. “And we heard that in Tripoli… in the Green Square in Tripoli there are some demonstrations against the government but they have been subject to heavy treatment from the government’s militia.”

“People don’t want to fight the regime and want to keep the protest peaceful, but the regime is spreading rumours and killing the civilians and children and women in the streets of Benghazi.”

Human Rights Watch said security forces in Libya have killed at least 84 people in three days, as protesters call for the removal of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

The city of Benghazi has become a focus for protesters. Doctors aid yesterday that 35 bodies were brought to one hospital after reportedly being gunned down at an attempted march on one of Gaddafi’s homes.

“The Libyan authorities should immediately end attacks on peaceful protesters and protect them from assault by pro-government armed groups,” Human Rights Watch said.

The death toll rises to 84 as Libyan special forces storm a protest camp in the country's second largest city (Image: Getty)

Snipers turn on crowds

Foreign Secretary William Hague said today he was “deeply concerned” at reports heavy weapons fire and “a unit of snipers against demonstrators”.

Despite severe restrictions to media access, Mr Hague said he had received “unacceptable and horrifying” reports of violence in Libya.

“I call on the authorities to stop using force and to rein back the army in confronting the domenstrators. The absence of TV cameras does not mean the attention of the world should not be focused on the actions of the Libyan government,” Mr Hague said.

As unrest rumbles across Northern Africa and the Middle East, Britain has urged authorities across the region to avoid violence and allow freedom of assembly.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said it was time to speak out in support of people in the Middle East who are demanding democracy.

Mr Miliband said: “As people who care about justice at home and abroad, all of us have been moved by what we have seen in the Middle East over the past few weeks.People, against overwhelming odds, are demanding economic progress, human rights, democracy and freedom.”

The Foreign Office changed its travel advice to warn against all but essential travel to the cities of Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Al-Bayda, Al-Marj, Derna and Tobruk in Eastern Libya.

Britons are also advised against all but essential travel to Bahrain where security forces opened fire on demonstrators for a second day yesterday wounding at least 50 people.

The wave of protests has spread through the Arab world after successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

At least four people were killed and dozens more wounded during protests in Yemen and demonstrations were also planned today in Algeria and Iran.

The Foreign Office announced last night that a range of licences for arms exports to Bahrain were being revoked following a swift review sparked by the authorities’ violent suppression of protests.