Gaddafi issues threat over protests


Moammar Gaddafi has sent forces on the streets of Libya in a bid to calm unrest amid protests calling for his ejection (AP)

Moammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya has deployed security forces throughout the country and warned citizens against joining the unrest in which dozens of protesters have been killed.

Demonstrations against Gaddafi’s rule have erupted in several Libyan cities this week, especially in the east of the country, and the US-based Human Rights Watch said that 24 people have died in the unrest.

Meanwhile, a Libyan doctor said 35 protesters were killed in the eastern city of Benghazi during clashes on Friday with security forces. The doctor from al-Jalaa hospital said he counted 35 bodies received at his hospital alone.

The doctor said witnesses and survivors told him most of the victims came from an attempted protest outside the residential compound used by the Libyan leader when he visits Benghazi. He said security forces inside the compound fired on protesters demonstrating outside. He said he could not keep track of the number of wounded.

The wave of pro-democracy protest that has swept across the Middle East has brought unprecedented pressure on leaders like Gaddafi, who have held virtually unchecked power for decades.

The man who has controlled Libya since 1969 rode in a motorcade through the capital Tripoli on Thursday and, according to eyewitnesses, also sent out forces across the country.

Witnesses in Beyida and Zentan, 75 miles south of Tripoli, said “special militia” units called Khamis Brigades were deployed in their cities.

In Beyida, local police – who are in the same tribe as residents – allied with protesters and prevented attacks from the militia, according to a witness and Mohammed Ali Abdullah, deputy leader of the exiled National Front for the Salvation of Libya. In Zentan, a female eyewitness said a Khamis Brigades unit attacked the city after protesters set fire to police stations and sprayed graffiti on the walls that read: “Down with Gaddafi.”

Residents of Tripoli, where small protests took place in central districts, said they received a text message to their mobile phones which warned people “who dare to violate the four red lines” – which include Gaddafi himself, national security, oil and Libyan territory, one woman who received the message said. Armoured vehicles roamed the streets chasing protesters, according to the local eyewitness, while helicopters hovered low over demonstrators’ heads.

And an editorial in the Az-Zahf Al-Akhdar newspaper, regarded as a Gaddafi mouthpiece, also threatened demonstrators, saying: “Whoever tries to violate them or touch them will be committing suicide and playing with fire.”

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