Protesters take over Libya’s Benghazi Airport – BBC

EthiopianReview.com | February 18th, 2011

Libya, one of the most repressive regimes in Africa, is unable to stop the wave of popular uprisings against dictators that is sweeping through northern Africa and the Middle East. The Libya pro-democracy protesters are taking their activities outside of the capital city to avoid direct clashes with the security forces that have been firing live bullets on unarmed civilians causing 23 deaths. BBC reports that the protesters today have taken control of an airport in the eastern Libyan town of Benghazi. Protesters also set fire to police stations and government buildings. Ghadafi’s brutal measures that are intended to instill fear seem to be having a reverse effect.

(BBC) — Libya’s dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi has taken a series of measures, including blocking internet sites and shutting off electricity to protest areas, to try to quell rising unrest.

Gaddafi’s regime has also reportedly offered to replace some top officials in a conciliatory move.

Media outlets loyal to Col Gaddafi have threatened retaliation against protesters who criticize the leader.

Emerging reports suggest a mounting death toll from days of clashes between security forces and protesters.

The mainstay of the unrest is in regional towns and cities, where many people live in poverty.

Foreign journalists operate under restrictions in Libya, so it has been impossible to independently verify much of the information coming out of the country.

But the BBC has confirmed that several websites – including Facebook and al-Jazeera Arabic – have been blocked.

And the airport in Benghazi, the country’s second largest city, has been closed, amid reports that protesters have taken it over.

Unrest spreads

Residents in Benghazi told the BBC that electricity has been cut off, and tanks are posted outside the court building.

Benghazi protesters have told international media they have learnt from Tunisia and Egypt, and are determined to depose Col Gaddafi.

Media outlets loyal to Col Gaddafi had earlier conceded that security forces had killed 14 protesters in Benghazi on Thursday, though other accounts put the death toll much higher.

Gamal Bandour, a judge in the city, told AP news agency that the mourners set fire to government buildings and police stations on the way back from the funerals on Friday.

Witnesses said 15 people had been killed during Friday’s clashes.

Meanwhile, dissidents based outside Libya claimed that protesters were now battling security forces for control of another eastern city, al-Bayda.

Video footage from al-Bayda showed bloodstained bodies in a mortuary, and protesters torching a municipal building and demolishing a statue of the so-called “green book” – the collection of principles by which Col Gaddafi rules.

The Oea newspaper, owned by one of Col Gaddafi’s sons, earlier reported that demonstrators had lynched two policemen in al-Bayda.

Oea also reported outbreaks of violence in Darnah, east of Benghazi, where it described residents as living in fear.

It said all police stations in Darnah had been evacuated after protesters were killed on Thursday, and rumors were circulating that elite military units were closing in on the city.

Amid the crackdown, the semi-independent Quryna newspaper reported that the government would replace many state executives and decentralize and restructure the government.

It was unclear whether the political move was in response to growing unrest.

Earlier, the pro-government Al-Zahf Al-Akhdar newspaper threatened to “violently and thunderously respond” to the protests.

“The people’s power, the Jamahiriya [system of rule], the revolution, and Colonel Gaddafi are all red lines and those who try to cross or come near these lines are suicidal and playing with fire.”

Col Gaddafi is the Arab world’s longest-serving leader, having ruled oil-rich Libya since a coup in 1969.