A doctor in the Libyan city of Benghazi said his hospital has seen the bodies of at least 200 protesters killed by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s forces over the last few days. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears reprisal.
Witnesses said a mix of special commandos, foreign mercenaries and Qaddafi loyalists assaulted demonstrators on Saturday with knives, assault rifles and heavy weapons. Those protesters were burying 35 marchers who were slain on Friday by government forces.
Benghazi has been a center of a weeklong revolt by Libyans inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and frustrated by Qaddafi’s more than 40 years of authoritarian rule.
The doctor said the hospital, one of two in the city, is out of supplies and cannot treat more than 70 wounded who were hit in the attacks and need attention.
“I am crying,” the doctor said. “Why is the world not listening?”
Getting concrete details about the protests in Libya has been difficult because journalists cannot work freely inside the country.
Information about the uprising has come through telephone interviews, along with videos and messages posted online, and through opposition activists in exile.
The US-based Arbor Networks reported online traffic ceased in Libya about 2am on Saturday and was restored at reduced levels several hours later, only to be cut off again that night.
At least 20 protesters were killed overnight in Benghazi, Human Rights Watch said yesterday, after witnesses said security forces fired heavy weapons at civilians from a fortified compound.
“A massacre took place here last night,” one Benghazi resident, who did not want to be named, said by telephone yesterday.
He said security forces were using heavy weapons, adding: “Many soldiers and policemen have joined the protesters.”
According to several accounts, police in Benghazi initially followed orders on Saturday to act against the protesters, but later joined with them because they belong to the same tribe and saw foreign mercenaries taking part in the killings.
“People are defiant here and they are ready to die,” a woman said by telephone from Benghazi.
She spoke on condition of anonymity, also for fear of reprisal.
Supporters of the Libyan uprising also demonstrated in Switzerland and in Washington on Saturday, waving flags and burning Qaddafi’s photo.