Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Fourteen dead in Benghazi protests

The news during the past week has inevitably centred on the proposal by youth groups, who have been using social media warfare, that there should be mass peaceful marches on 17th and18th February, the anniversary of the 2005 riots in Benghazi, to demonstrate against the lack of human rights.

The marches have been pre-empted by major protests in Benghazi on the night of Tuesday 15th February. They were apparently triggered by the arrest of Fathi Terbil who represents the families of the victims of the 1996 Abu Selim prison massacre when up to 1000 prisoners were killed. Although Terbil was later released, the protests continued.

There has been no independent confirmation, however, of the overnight protests in which eyewitnesses claim that at one stage involved around 2,000 people. Stones were thrown at police who are said to have responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets. According to a Reuters report in the online edition of Libya's privately-owned Quryna, 14 people were injured, including 10 police officers.

Later, State television showed several hundred people in Benghazi voicing their support for the government which has not yet commented on the events. One eye-witness said that "a couple of people in the crowd started chanting anti-government slogans and the crowd took that on”. He went on, "But then there were clashes with pro-government supporters and then after a bit the pro-government supporters were dispersed and then the security services arrived and they dispersed the crowds with hot-water cannons."

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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