Jewish World Review Feb. 21, 2011 / 17 Adar I, 5771
First Libyan city falls to Gadhafi's opponents
By Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel and Shashank Bengali
AIRO (MCT) Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, fell Sunday after a crack army unit defected to the opposition and clashes spread to the capital,
Gadhafi's youngest son,
"At this moment in time, tanks are driven about by civilians. In
He appealed for calm, promising to institute democratic reforms. But in a warning suggesting that the regime was digging in for a bloody fight for survival, he said that unless its proposals are accepted, "be prepared for civil war."
The revolt in the oil-rich nation of 6.4 million was a major escalation in the instability ignited across the
Pro-reform protesters inspired by those revolutions clashed on Sunday with security forces in
The upheavals pose the most serious foreign policy challenge of President
At least 233 people have died and hundreds have been injured in Benghazi alone since the uprising erupted on Wednesday, said
A doctor and a resident reached by telephone in the seaside city of 1 million told
Verifying developments in
The insurrection in
On Sunday evening, anti-government protests erupted in
The resident, who gave his name only as Abdalla, said he saw two men killed, one shot in the neck, the other through the head.
Violence broke out elsewhere in
Gadhafi seized power in bloodless 1969 coup and imposed on the nation of 6.4 million one of the region's most repressive regimes, with the formation of independent political parties or trade unions punishable by death and torture routine in its prisons, according to
The clashes in Benghazi ended late Sunday night, residents reached by telephone said, after the Lighting Bolts, an army commando force, defected to citizens armed with weapons seized from army bases. Together, they overran the main security compound, the Katiba El Fadil Bu Omar, a complex that includes one of Gadhafi's residences.
"The special forces have defected and attacked Gadhafi's barracks," said Muftah, a local journalist who studied in
Thousands of people poured into the city's streets to celebrate, he said, confirming that anti-regime forces had captured large amounts of weapons and were driving several captured tanks around.
But with no identifiable leader or group in command and so much weaponry loose, Muftah, whose last name is being withheld for security reasons, expressed concern that anarchy could quickly replace the jubilation.
"It is harmless so far, but let's hope it doesn't develop into something nasty," he said. "People are forming committees to guard neighborhoods."
Braikah, a doctor, said lawyers, writers, doctors and other public figures were trying to figure out how to ensure that the movement proceeded in a peaceful, orderly way. She spoke on the condition her surname not be used.
Muftah said a friend who is a surgeon told him that 70 people were killed in fighting on Sunday that began when pro-Gadhafi forces in the main security compound opened fire with heavy machine guns at a funeral procession for one of those killed the day before.
Braikah put Sunday's toll at 50.
Several videos posted on YouTube appeared to verify the reports of heavy fighting. In one, thousands of people cheer men armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers riding in a white pickup. The bloodied bodies of what were said to be two African mercenaries were lashed to the vehicle's hood.
Video posted on several websites shows a bloodied man described as an African mercenary being detained by a group of protestors. He tells them "I swear by God these were orders," and they keep asking "orders from who?" He answers "orders from the officers." Some of the men begin punching and picking him, and he falls to the ground. Others protect him and shout "no!"
"We have raised to a number of Libyan officials, including Libyan Foreign Minister
Demonstrators clashed with security forces on
Large deployments of club-swinging police, some on motorbikes, charged the protesters at
In a video posted on an Iranian blogger's Facebook site, thousands of protesters are heard shouting "Mubarak,
Press TV, the state-run English-language satellite news channel, reported that Faezah Hashemi, the daughter of former President
The human rights group and posts by Iranian bloggers on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter also spoke of clashes in the cities of Shiraz, Hamedan, Isfahan, Tabriz, and Rasht.
The protests were staged in defiance of stern government warnings, with a state news service claiming that protesters were in danger of being shot by armed infiltrators.
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