Libyan forces storm protest camp in Benghazi; 84 dead

Security forces killed 84 people in a crackdown on three days of protests, said Human Rights Watch.

Cairo: Libyan Special Forces stormed a
two-day-old protest encampment in the country`s second largest
city, clearing the area early today, said witnesses, as a
human rights group estimated 84 people have died in the harsh
crackdown on days of demonstrations.

Internet was also cut around 2 am removing one of the
few ways of Libyans can get out information about the waves of
anti-government protests in one of the most isolated and
repressive nations in North Africa.

At 5:00 am, special forces attacked hundreds of
protesters, including lawyers and judges, camped out in front
of the courthouse in the eastern city of Benghazi, which has
been a focus for the anti-government unrest.

"They fired tear gas on protesters in tents and
cleared the areas after many fled carrying the dead and the
injured," one protester said over the phone from Benghazi.
"This is a ghost city; we are all afraid that something big is
going to happen in Benghazi today."

The protester spoke on condition of anonymity for fear
of reprisal.

Thousands of protesters are calling for the removal
Moammar Gadhafi, Libya`s leader for the past 42 years, mainly
in the cities of the country`s impoverished east. Their
demonstrations have been brutally suppressed with a
combination of armed militias and elite forces.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch estimated 84
people have been killed across the east over the last three
days, based on reports from hospitals and witnesses.

"The Libyan authorities should immediately end attacks
on peaceful protesters and protect them from assault by
pro-government armed groups," the organisation said in its

Residents in Benghazi, which has borne the brunt of
the casualties, said just hours before the attack on the
encampment, the mood was ebullient as protesters torched
police stations, government buildings and took over the local
radio station.

They had set up tents on the street in front of the
city`s courthouse, overlooking the sea.

Doctors in Benghazi said yesterday that 35 bodies had
been admitted to the hospital following attacks by security
forces backed by militias, on top of more than a dozen killed
the day before.

At least five cities of eastern Libya have seen
protests and clashes in recent days.


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