Hundreds of people clashed with police and government supporters overnight in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, a witness and local media said, in a rare show of unrest in the oil exporting country.
Libya has been tightly controlled by leader Muammar Qaddafi for more than 40 years, but has felt the ripples from revolts in its neighbors Egypt and Tunisia.
Libyan state television said that rallies were held in the early hours of yesterday morning across the country in support of Qaddafi.
Reports from Benghazi, about 1,000km east of the Libyan capital, indicated the city was now calm but that overnight, protesters had set fire to vehicles and fought with police.
The protesters were angry about the arrest of a human rights campaigner and demanded his release.
Qaddafi opponents used the Facebook social networking site to call on people to go out onto the streets across Libya today for what they described as a “day of rage.”
Quryna newspaper, which is based in Benghazi, quoted Abdelkrim Gubaili, the director of a local hospital, as saying 38 people were injured in the clashes, most of them members of the security forces.
Some Libyans complain about high unemployment, income inequality and limits on political freedoms, but analysts say an Egypt-style revolt is unlikely there because the government can use its vast energy revenues to placate unhappy citizens.
A video clip posted on the YouTube site by someone who said it was recorded in Benghazi on Tuesday night showed a crowd of people outside what looked like a government building chanting: “No God but God!” and “Corruption is the enemy of God.”
People in Benghazi have a history of distrust of Qaddafi’s rule. Many of his most ardent opponents are from the city.