At least 14 people were killed and
dozens of others injured in clashes with Libyan security forces as the country
faces a nationwide “Day of Anger” called by cyber-activists.
Opposition websites and a Libyan
rights group based in London said the clashes with demonstrators opposed to the
regime of Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi took place in the town of al Baida.
Amid reports of several deaths in
al Baida, Human Rights Watch also said authorities had detained 14 activists,
writers and protesters who had been preparing the anti-government protests.
The scale of the protests is a test
for Colonel Gaddafi, 68, who has been in power since 1969 – after his
counterparts in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia were toppled.
One Facebook group urging the
“Day of Anger” in Libya had 4,400 members on Monday – that number
doubled to more than 9,600 following unrest in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Amateur footage posted on YouTube
showed both night-time and day protests, with demonstrators chanting in al
Beida: “Gaddafi you dictator! The turn has come for you; the turn has come
Other images showed protesters
setting fire to posters of Mr Gaddafi before igniting a large bonfire at the
entrance of a police outpost.
Mr Gaddafi’s regime has made some
concessions to opponents – releasing more than 100 Islamists from jail after
they renounced violence.
But the government, which tightly
controls free speech and media outlets, has tried to orchestrate public
displays of support with counter-protest groups.
Both Britain and the European Union
called for restraint by the Libyan authorities while the European Union urged
the regime to allow “free expression”.
The “Day of Anger” coincides
with the fifth anniversary of the deaths of 14 protesters in an Islamist rally