Helicopters Rain Fire Down On Benghazi, Libya
[See video at bottom of scroll]
[See Al Jazeera's Live Blog for latest updates]
After shutting off the Internet and sending foreign mercenaries to combat protesters, Gaddafi's administration has sent helicopters to fire down on the Libyan city of Benghazi.
The city was the first of several anti-Gaddafi demonstrations taking place all over the country and has been the target of the Gaddafi administrations harshest attacks. Al Jazeera English and Human Rights Watch reported Friday that at least 84 have died in the city alone, with hundreds more injured. Eyewitness reports emerging on blogs and Twitter on Saturday morning claimed the death toll had reached nearly 200.
[Find more photos here.]
The attacks are perhaps a reaction to reports that Libya’s second largest city has been overtaken by anti-Gaddafi protesters. The opposition party’s flag-- the national flag of Libya when Gaddafi’s predecessor, King Idris, ruled-- was flying above the city courthouse late Friday evening, several Libyan citizens Tweeted.
Similiar claims have been made about the Libyan cities of Darna, Al-Bayda, Marj and Ajdabiya, though none have been confirmed.
One anti-Gaddfi website also claims that Gaddfi's newphew has been killed at the hands of explosives at a military barracks.
Crowds estimated at 15,000 protested at the Benghazi courthouse, demanding change and the resignation of Muammar Gaddafi, who’s ruled Libya for more than 40 years. Benghazi has been plagued with violence ever since Gaddafi’s Revolutionary Committee began responding aggressively to peaceful anti-Gaddafi protests of the local citizenry.
After reportedly sending Committee members to hose down protesters with high-pressure water cannons and eventually deploying live ammunition against the demonstrators, rumors that Gaddafi’s administration had hired foreign mercenaries from Korea and Chad to attack the protesting dissenters.
The rumors proved to be true when the mercenaries were said to have started breaking into people’s homes and shooting protesters from the tops of buildings. Eyewitness reports on Twitter claimed that the mercenaries were walking into hospitals like Jalaa Hospital in Benghazi, and shooting injured patients.
During a funeral for six protesters Friday in Benghazi, four more were shot right outside the cemetery walls, an eyewitness on Twitter reports. Video shot inside a Benghazi morgue Friday depicted the bodies of several protesters, shot in the head and chest.
Benghazi has long been a hotbed of opposition party activity, and increasingly so, as Libyans continue to suffer under an atmosphere of fear and oppression and a growing number of the Gaddafi’s administrations’ human rights violations.
Reach reporter Tasbeeh Herwees here.