At least 24 protesters against Muammar el-Qaddafi have been killed in Libya. Media suppression makes the figures uncertain. The Times reports:
“According to multiple witnesses, Libyan security forces shot and killed the demonstrators in efforts to disperse the protests,” Human Rights Watch said, calling the crackdown vicious. Protests broke out in five places, it said — Benghazi, Al Beyda, Zentan, Derna and Ajdabiya. Quryna, a privately owned newspaper in Benghazi, said seven killings came overnight when security forces fired live rounds at protesters. While there has been no means of verifying the authorities’ tactics, there has been a steady stream of accusations about the use of live ammunition, reflecting the government’s resolve to quash protest.
To the east and west of his country, Colonel Qaddafi has seen leaders toppled by mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt and seems determined to forestall any such uprising in his own country.
The protests seem to feed on earlier grievances, both economic and political, particularly in the east of the country where people have long felt disadvantaged compared with those in the capital.