TRIPOLI: At least 84 people have been killed by security forces in three days of protests in several cities in Libya, Human Rights Watch reported.
Based on telephone interviews with local hospital staff and witnesses, New York-based group Human Rights Watch reported that 20 people were killed in Benghazi, 23 in Baida, three in Ajdabiya, and three in Derna during peaceful protests on Thursday. Then, on Friday, security forces killed 35 people after protests in the second city Benghazi began during funerals for the 20 demonstrators.
"Muammar Gaddafi's security forces are firing on Libyan citizens and killing scores simply because they're demanding change and accountability," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
A senior hospital official told the group that the deaths in Benghazi had been caused by gunshot wounds to the chest, neck, and head. Two sources at the hospital confirmed that the death toll for Thursday was 20, and that at least 45 people had been wounded by bullets.
"We put out a call to all the doctors in Benghazi to come to the hospital and for everyone to contribute blood because I've never seen anything like this before," a senior hospital official told the group.
Protesters, inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, had called for a 'Day of Rage' on Thursday to demand the resignation of Muammar Gaddafi, who has ruled oil-rich Libya since 1969. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the eastern Libyan cities of Benghazi, Baida, Ajdabiya, Zawiya, and Derna on Friday, following the violent attacks against peaceful protests the day before.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague on Saturday called on the authorities to stop using force against demonstrators after receiving the report that 35 bodies were brought to one hospital alone.
"I condemn the violence in Libya, including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators. This is clearly unacceptable and horrifying," the secretary said in a statement.
"I call on the authorities to stop using force and to rein back the army in confronting the demonstrators. The absence of TV cameras does not mean the attention of the world should not be focussed on the actions of the Libyan government," he added.
Media organizations began reporting on Friday night that the Libyan government had started to block user access to Facebook in the country's capital of Tripoli and that it was sporadically shutting down electricity and Internet access in the rest of the country.
"At around 10pm local time, Internet traffic dramatically dropped across the board. Whilst not completely cut off it's clear it's a pretty concentrated effort, which in my opinion is unlikely to be the result of a random failure," said Scott Julian, CEO of Effective Measure, an organization that measures analytics tags on pages like arabia.msn.com within the MENA region.
"The profile of the change in traffic is very similar to what we saw in Egypt, and leads one to conclude that this isn't the result of a group of random, unconnected events. It seems some ISP's are still up and running, which follows the same pattern as the first shutdown in Egypt," Julian told technology blog TechCrunch.
Human Rights Watch reported that a man in Tripoli had been summoned by Internal Security because of his postings on Facebook. On Friday, Internal Security officers came to his home and took both the man and his uncle away with them to an undisclosed location.
Libya's crackdown on protesters have been criticized by other human rights groups, like Amnesty International, which condemened the use of excessive force in a statement.
"This alarming rise in the death toll, and the reported nature of the victims' injuries, strongly suggests that security forces are permitted use lethal force against unarmed protesters calling for political change," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"The Libyan authorities must immediately, rein in their security forces. Those responsible for unlawful killings and excessive force – both the direct perpetrators and those who gave the orders – must be identified and brought to justice," he added.
The European Union have also condemned the use of excessive force and urged Libyan authorities to allow anti-government protesters to demonstrate and take their demands seriously. U.S. President Barack Obama also reiterated his condemnation of the violence used against peaceful protesters.
(BNO NEWS )