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Saturday 19 January 2019

Dozens dead as Gaddafi clamps down on revolt

Libyan security forces stepped up their crackdown on protesters in several eastern cities demanding an end to the rule of leader Muammar Gaddafi.

In Benghazi, the country's second largest city, a stream of 35 bodies was brought to one hospital yesterday, reportedly of protesters shot while trying to march on one of Gaddafi's residences, a doctor said.

The deaths took place after funerals for more than a dozen protesters shot dead a day earlier. A doctor in Benghazi's al-Jalaa hospital, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said survivors of the clashes had said that after the burials, protesters tried to rally outside the Katiba, a military compound where Gaddafi stays when he visits.

Security forces inside the compound opened fire on protesters as they approached, the doctor said. Dead and wounded began flowing into the hospital's emergency ward in the afternoon, in groups of five or six, many with bullet wounds to the head or chest.

Several dozen have reportedly been killed in the protests that have erupted in the past four days as the pro-democracy movement sweeping the Middle East reached one of the region's most closed nations. Gaddafi has ruled virtually unquestioned since 1969.

Libya is oil-rich, but the gap between its haves and have-nots is wide and the protests have flared hardest in the more impoverished eastern parts of the country.

"This alarming rise in the death toll, and the reported nature of the victims' injuries, strongly suggests that security forces are permitted use of lethal force against unarmed protesters calling for political change," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said.

hnews@herald.ie

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