Libya: Snipers shoot mourners, killing 15

Cairo, Feb 19 (AP) Moammar Gadhafi''s forces fired onmourners leaving a funeral for protesters today in the easterncity of Benghazi, killing at least 15 people and woundingscores more 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.

Government forces also wiped out a protest encampmentand clamped down on Internet service throughout Libya. Snipersfired on thousands of people gathered in Benghazi, a focalpoint of the unrest, to mourn 35 protesters who were shotyesterday, a hospital official said.

A hospital official said 15 people were killed,including one man who was apparently hit in the head with ananti-aircraft missile. The weapons apparently were used tointimidate the population.

"Many of the dead and the injured are relatives ofdoctors here," he told The Associated Press in a telephoneinterview. "They are crying and I keep telling them to pleasestand up and help us."

The official said many people were shot in the headand chest. The hospital was overwhelmed and people werestreaming to the facility to donate blood.

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-basedArbor Networks security company detected a total cessation ofonline traffic in the North African country. Protestersconfirmed 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. (AP)

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