Human rights group Amnesty International said on Friday its sources had said Libyan security forces had shot dead at least 46 people in the past three days.
Amnesty said in a statement sources at al-Jala hospital in Benghazi had reported 28 deaths and more than 110 people injured in Thursday’s protests in the city, and at least three further deaths on Friday.
Local human rights activists reported at least 15 deaths on Thursday during protests in the nearby town of Al Bayda, an Amnesty International spokeswoman said.
“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 said in the statement.
Amnesty said the sources at al-Jala hospital in Benghazi had told it the most common injuries were bullet wounds to the head, chest and neck.
Thousands of people protested in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, on Friday over a security crackdown in which dozens of people wre killed but which failed to halt the worst unrest of Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades in power. (Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Andrew Dobbie)
Soldiers were deployed on the streets of Libya’s second city Benghazi overnight.
It followed a ‘Day of Rage’ where thousands of people took to the streets overnight, campaigning against the forty year rule of Colonel Gadaffi.
Protesters defied curfews in five cities to join in demonstrations.
Marchers mourning dead protesters in Libya’s second-largest city have reportedly come under fire from security forces, as protests in the oil-exporting North African nation entered their fifth day.
Mohamed el-Berqawy, an engineer in Benghazi, told Al Jazeera that the city was the scene of a “massacre,” and that four demonstrators had been killed on Friday.
“Where is the United Nations … where is (US president Barack) Obama, where is the rest of the world, people are dying on the streets,” he said. “We are ready to die for our country.”
Verifying news from Libya has been difficult since protests began, thanks to restrictions on journalists entering the country, as well as internet and mobile phone black outs imposed by the government. But Human Rights Watch has reported that at least 24 protesters have been killed so far, and sources on the ground have said that number could be as high as 50.
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters seeking to oust leader Muammar Gaddafi took to the streets across Libya on Thursday in what organisers called a “day of rage” modelled after similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt that ousted longtime leaders there. Gaddafi has ruled Libya since 1969.
Funerals for those killed, expected in both Benghazi and the town of Bayda on Friday, may be a catalyst for more protests.
Pro-government supporters also were out on the streets early on Friday, according to the Libyan state television, which broadcasted images labelled “live” that showed men chanting slogans in support of Gaddafi.
The pro-Gaddafi crowd was seen singing as it surrounded his limousine as it crept along a road in the capital, Tripoli, packed with people carrying his portrait.
Deadly clashes on Thursday
Deadly clashes broke out in several towns on Thursday after the opposition called for protests in a rare show of defiance inspired by uprisings in other Arab states and the toppling of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The worst clashes appeared to have taken place in the eastern Cyrenaica region, centred on Benghazi, where support for Gaddafi has historically been weaker than in other parts of the country.
Libya’s Quryna newspaper reported that the regional security chief had been removed from his post over the deaths of protesters in Bayda. Libyan opposition groups in exile claimed that Bayda citizens had joined with local police forces to take over Bayda and fight against government-backed militias, whose ranks are allegedly filled by recruits from other African nations.
Political analysts say Libyan oil wealth may give the government the capacity to smooth over social problems and
reduce the risk of an Egypt-style revolt.
Gaddafi’s opponents say they want political freedoms, respect for human rights and an end to corruption.
Gaddafi’s government proposed the doubling of government employees’ salaries and released 110 suspected anti-government figures who oppose him – tactics similar to those adopted by other Arab regimes facing recent mass protests.
Gaddafi also has been meeting with tribal leaders to solicit their support.