Several killed in Tripoli''s Friday protests

RaniaCairo, Feb 25 (PTI) Anti-Gaddafi protesters defied afierce clampdown to take to the streets of Tripoli and weremet with heavy gunfire and several casualties as forces loyalto the regime fought hard to quell the rebellion that isinching closer to the Libyan capital.

The first protest in Tripoli in several days cameafter the Friday prayers as tens of thousands of protestersacross Libya staged similar demonstrations seeking an end toMuammar Gaddafi''s 41 year old regime.

In Tripoli, where the crackdown has been intense overthe past few days, security forces fired indiscriminately onthe protesters, killing at least six people, according to AlJazeera.

The pan-Arab channel also reported heavy gun fire invarious districts of Tripoli, including Fashloum, Ashour,Jumhouria and Souq Al.

As the world prepares to impose sanctions on Libya''sregime, an increasingly isolated Gaddafi has held al-Qaedaresponsible for the unprecedented protests.

Security forces loyal to Gaddafi attacked anti-regimeprotesters with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades ata mosque in Zawiyah yesterday leaving nearly 100 people dead.

But, undeterred by the brutal military action,protesters, who have gained control of several eastern cities,advanced closer to 68-year-old Gaddafi''s stronghold ofTripoli.

"The security forces fired indiscriminately on thedemonstrators... There were deaths in the streets of Sugal-Jomaa," a resident of one of the capital''s eastern suburbswas quoted as saying by Al Jazeera, giving an account oftoday''s protests.

In Benghazi, where protests first erupted beforeprotesters managed to oust the regime, thousands gathered forthe Friday prayers and paid homage to those killed in theviolence.

There is no clear picture of how many people have diedin the violence of the past few days but France''s top humanrights official Francois Zimeray said yesterday that it couldbe as high as 2,000.

While several cities in the east of the country werereported to be in control of the protesters, the securityforces were fighting hard to keep the west largely in theircontrol.

The channel said that the Khamis Brigade, an armyspecial forces brigade that is loyal to the Gaddafi family andis equipped with sophisticated weaponry, is fightinganti-government forces in the west.

There had also been reports of a fierce battle forcontrol of an airport near the opposition-controlled city ofMisrata, about 200 km from Tripoli. (MORE) PTI

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