Libya death toll hits 104: HRW

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Cairo, Feb 20 (AFP) At least 104 people have beenkilled in a crackdown by Libyan security forces on anti-regimeprotests raging in the east of the country, Human Rights Watchsaid on Sunday citing medics and witnesses.

"Our researcher in Libya has confirmed at least 104deaths," HRW''s Tom Porteous told AFP by telephone. "It''s anincomplete picture because communications with Libya isextremely difficult."

A staff member at Al-Jalal hospital in the city ofBenghazi told HRW that the facility had received 20 deadbodies late on Saturday, with another 25 protesters incritical condition.

"The majority of those injured showed gunshot woundsto the head, neck and shoulders," said Porteous, the group''sLondon director.

He said the Libyan government had shut down allInternet communications since late Saturday and interferenceon phone services has made it "extremely difficult to getinformation on what is going on there."

"We are very concerned under the communicationblackout that has fallen on Libya since yesterday that a humanrights catastrophe is unfolding."

Libyan authorities have arrested dozens of members ofa "network" of Arab nationals allegedly seeking to destabilisethe country, the official Jana news agency reported yesterday.

Those detained in several Libyan cities were membersof a "foreign network (and were) trained to damage Libya''sstability, the safety of its citizens and national unity."

Sources close to the investigation, quoted by theagency, said the group included Tunisian, Egyptian, Sudanese,Palestinian, Syrian and Turkish citizens.

Those arrested were "charged with inciting acts oflooting and sabotage, such as burning hospitals, banks,courts, prisons, police stations and offices of the militarypolice, as well as public buildings and private properties,according to plans drawn up earlier," Jana said.

Noting that "certain Libyan cities have been the sceneof acts of sabotage and destruction since Tuesday," Jana saidthe suspects sought to "take arms from police stations and themilitary police and use them."

"Sources close to the investigation have not ruled outIsrael being behind the network," the news agency added,without providing details.

On the fifth day of an unprecedented challenge to hisfour-decade regime, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi has stillmade no public comment, although he reportedly appeared at amass rally of supporters in the capital on Thursday. (AFP)

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