Violence Escalates in Libya As Protesters and Military Clash

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A protester shouts slogans against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi during a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in the Egypt. Photo: GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

Government security forces again fired on a funeral procession in Benghazi today, as residents buried the victims of yesterday's crackdown on protesters, and the five-day uprising against Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi continued. The protests in Libya now appear to be spreading to other cities along the Mediterranean coast, and anti-government protests were reported in the Libyan capital Tripoli for the first time. CNN is reporting that some of the military dropped allegiances to Muammar Qaddafi, and multiple eyewitnesses have reported that Benghazi is now "in the hands of protesters and their military allies." CNN also reported today that some protesters used an explosives-laden car and a tank to attack a military camp in Benghazi.

However, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, a Saudi newspaper, quoted sources close to the Qaddafi family as saying they would "die on Libyan soil" rather than give up power like the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia. Libyan state television reported that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, Qaddafi's son, would give a speech Sunday night.

The number of confirmed deaths around the country rose to at least 173, according to Human Rights Watch, but several people in Benghazi hospitals said they believed as many as 200 had been killed and more than 800 wounded there on Saturday alone. Witnesses indicated that many had been killed by machine-gun fire, snipers, helicopters, and uniformed soldiers.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley the United States is "gravely concerned with disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya." He explained, "We are working to ascertain the facts, but we have received multiple credible reports that hundreds of people have been killed and injured in several days of unrest. U.S. officials have communicated to Libyan officials including Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa our strong objections to the use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators."

There were also large protests on Sunday in Yemen, Tunisia, and, for the first time, Morocco. Meanwhile, Iranian security forces reportedly suppressed attempted demonstrations in Tehran and other cities around the country.

Protesters Die as Crackdown in Libya Intensifies [NYT]
Clashes erupt at Libyan funeral procession, military camp [CNN]
Reports: Benghazi now in the hands of Libyan protesters [CNN]
Anti-Gaddafi protests spread to Tripoli [BBC]
Libya defiant as hundreds of protesters feared dead [Guardian UK]