Libyan forces fire on mourners; total toll may be 300

Cairo, Feb 20 (AP) Libyan security forces opened firedon mourners at a funeral for anti-government protesters in theeastern city of Benghazi again today, a day after commandosand foreign mercenaries loyal to longtime leader MoammarGadhafi pummeled demonstrators with assault rifles and otherheavy weaponry as well as knives.

Libyan protesters defied a fierce crackdown byGadhafi''s regime, returning today to a square outside a courtbuilding in the flashpoint city of Benghazi to demand theoverthrow of Gadhafi.

Witnesses told The Associated Press hundreds ofdemonstrators gathered early morning at the court buildingafter a day of bloodshed, during which Libyan forces openedfire on mourners leaving a funeral for protesters.

In the hours after that attack, a medical officialsaid at least 15 people were killed.

But Mohammed Abdullah, a Dubai-based member of theLibyan Salvation Front, said today that the toll could be muchhigher. He quoted hospital officials in Benghazi saying thedeath toll might have reached 300.

The crackdown in Libya is shaping up to be the mostbrutal repression of the anti-government protests that beganwith uprisings that toppled the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

The protests then spread quickly around the region toBahrain, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and outside the MiddleEast to places including the East African nation of Djiboutiand even China.

The latest violence in the flashpoint city of Benghazifollowed the same pattern as the crackdown on Saturday, whenwitnesses said forces loyal to Gadhafi attacked mourners at afuneral for anti-government protesters.

The doctor at a Benghazi hospital said at least oneperson was killed by gunshots during the funeral march, and 14were injured, including five in serious condition. He spoke oncondition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

A man shot in the leg Sunday said marchers werecarrying coffins to a cemetery when they passed a militarycompound in Libya''s second-largest city. The man said securityforces fired in the air and then opened up on the crowd. (AP)

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