Al Arabiya is reporting from multiple sources that Libyan aircraft could begin bombing the city of Benghazi within hours. Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya behind Tripoli, and is now believed to be more or less under the control of protesters, after an army unit joined forces with citizens to push Gaddafi’s forces out.
Benghazi has a population of some 600,000-plus. Hundreds — and according to some sources, thousands — of anti-Gaddafi protesters have already been killed, some by aircraft fire.
The United States has a large military presence in the Mediterranean. Unlike neighboring Egypt which falls under CENTCOM, Libya is in the area of responsibility of AFRICOM, which counts the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet and attached Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) among its assets, as well as the Seventeenth Air Force out of Germany.
UPDATE: Witnesses on the ground describe an indiscriminate “massacre” of civilians in two districts of Tripoli:
Residents of Tripoli said on Monday there had been “a massacre” in the Tajura and Fashlum districts of the Libyan capital, with indiscriminate shooting and air strikes and women among the dead. “What happened today in Tajura was a massacre,” one resident of the district said. “Armed men were firing indiscriminately. There are even women among the dead,” adding that mosque loudspeakers were putting out appeals for help. Another witness in Fashlum said that helicopters had landed what he called armed African mercenaries in the neighbourhood, and that the gunmen then opened fire on anyone in the street, causing a large number of deaths. Both Fashlum and Tajura are suburbs of the Libyan capital.