Cairo, Feb 19 (AP) Moammar Gadhafi''s forces fired onmourners in the eastern city of Benghazi, wiped out a protestencampment and clamped down on Internet service throughoutLibya today as the regime tried to squelch calls for an end tothe ruler''s 42-year grip on power.
Libyan protesters were back on the street for thefifth straight day, but Gadhafi has taken a hard line towardthe dissent that has ripped through the Middle East and swepthim up with it.
Snipers fired on thousands of people gathered inBenghazi, a focal point of the unrest, to mourn 35 protesterswho were shot yesterday, a hospital official said. At leastone person was killed today and a dozen more shot in the headand chest, he said.
"Now we have youth coming to the hospital to donateblood," he said. "We are running out of supplies."
Like most Libyans who have talked to The AssociatedPress during the revolt, the hospital official spoke oncondition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Before today''s violence, Human Rights Watch hadestimated at least 84 people have been killed. Just after 2 am local time in Libya, the US-based Arbor Networks securitycompany detected a total cessation of online traffic in theNorth African country.
Protesters confirmed they could not get online.
Information is tightly controlled in Libya, wherejournalists cannot work freely, and activists this week haveposted videos on the Internet that have been an importantsource of images of the revolt.
Other information about the protests has come fromopposition activists in exile. Egyptian officials brieflytried to cut Internet service during the uprising that toppledHosni Mubarak on Feb 11, but that move was unsuccessful.
Libya is more isolated, however, and the Internet isone of the few links to the outside world. The Cairo-basedArabic Network for Human Rights Information released a reportback in 2004 that said nearly 1 million people among Libya''spopulation of about 6 million had Internet access at the time.
That was just three years after Internet service had beenextended to the public.
About 5 a m today, special forces attacked hundreds ofprotesters, including lawyers and judges, camped out in frontof the courthouse in Benghazi, Libya''s second-largest city.
"They fired tear gas on protesters in tents andcleared the areas after many fled carrying the dead and theinjured," one protester said over the phone.
Doctors in Benghazi said yesterday that 35 bodies hadbeen brought to the hospital following attacks by securityforces backed by militias, on top of more than a dozen killedthe day before. Standing in front of Jalaa Hospital morgue, awitness said that the bodies bore wounds from being shot"directly at the head and the chests." (AP)