International concern was mounting Sunday about the violent crackdown on protests in Libya, amid reports that the number of demonstrators killed by Libya’s security forces was approaching 100, according to the BBC.
Medical officials in Libya’s second city of Benghazi said 15 people died when troops opened fire on mourners leaving a funeral for protesters killed in earlier clashes, the BBC added.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague last night voiced Britain’s revulsion at the “unacceptable and horrifying” violence meted out by Libyan leader Gaddafi’s loyalists, who are said to have used Kalashnikovs, knives and even anti-aircraft missiles to quell demonstrations.
Internet services have been shut down throughout the north African state, where journalists’ movements are strictly controlled, and only patchy reports have emerged of events over the three days of protests.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch organisation estimated the death toll was at least 84 by Friday and the killings at yesterday’s funeral have brought the figure up to 99.
Reports suggested that mourners were killed by shots to the head and chest, while one was apparently hit by an anti-aircraft missile. Scores of others were injured after the regime sent in commandos, mercenaries and helicopters in what has been the most brutal response to the wave of unrest sweeping across the Arab world.
Gaddafi’s son Saadi is understood to have led the crackdown in Benghazi against protesters calling for an end to his father’s 42-year autocratic rule.
Clashes on a smaller scale were also reported yesterday in Yemen and Algeria.
But in Bahrain, chanting demonstrators flooded back into Pearl Square unopposed after King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ordered troops off the streets and offered dialogue with all of the Gulf state’s communities.
Hague welcomed the developments when he spoke to Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman by phone yesterday. While expressing “deep concern” about the earlier use of live ammunition by Bahraini troops against protesters, the Foreign Secretary said he “strongly supported” Salman’s efforts to initiate a national dialogue and called on all sides to respond to the offer.
On the situation in Libya, Hague said: “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.”
“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 focused on the actions of the Libyan government.”
The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to the cities of Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Al-Bayda, Al-Marj, Derna and Tobruk in eastern Libya, where the protests have been concentrated. Eight licences for arms exports to Libya have been revoked by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.