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Terrorism & Security

'Day of Rage' brings Libya protest deaths to at least 24, says human rights group

'Day of Rage' protests in Libya yesterday have increased pressure on Muammar Qaddafi, the Arab world's longest-ruling dictator, with funerals today potentially serving as a catalyst for more violence.

By Correspondent / February 18, 2011

A supporter of Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi poses for the camera while holding a flag during a pro-government demonstration in Tripoli early Thursday, Feb. 17. There are several reports that pro-government rallies have taken place in the capital city, with demonstrators chanting slogans in favor of Mr. Qaddafi. Meanwhile, antigovernment protests took place elsewhere.

Abdel Meguid al-Fergany/AP

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At least 24 people have been killed in Libya's antigovernment protests since activists took to the streets late Tuesday night and staged a "Day of Rage" yesterday. A number of other activists have been wounded in the clashes with security forces, reports Human Rights Watch.

Libya’s protests, which are expected to continue today, come on the heels of popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt that resulted in the removal of the leaders of both nations. Libyan demonstrators are seeking the removal of Muammar Qaddafi, the Arab world’s longest-ruling dictator. He has controlled the country since taking power in a 1969 coup.

While major demonstrations have not yet spread to the capital city of Tripoli, there are reports of protests in at least five different cities. The biggest are taking place in Benghazi and al-Bayda, where activists are setting up camps.

According to the BBC, the government has taken a harsh stand against protesters, firing on them with live ammunition and withholding supplies from hospitals.

“The police are using their guns... I have a video which shows the police shooting people but the government has blocked the internet in al-Bayda. We are asking the authorities to unblock the internet service,” one protestor in al-Bayda told the BBC in a late night interview on Thursday. “The biggest problem now is that doctors are not treating the injured and so they die. It's a crime. The demonstrations will continue though. People are bringing tents to the streets to sleep in during the night.”

Residents of Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, also reported protests turning violent in the evening Thursday, a day that had been dubbed by activists as a “Day of Rage.”

“Last night was very hard, there were a lot of people in the street, thousands of people. I saw soldiers in the street,” a resident of Benghazi told Reuters. “I heard shooting. I saw one person fall down (from a gunshot wound) but I don't have a figure for casualties."

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