Monday, February 21, 2011

Nigerians killed in Libyan Protests

Dozens of Nigerians are among hundreds killed in the on-going protests in Libya, according to a U.S.-based rights group.

Human Rights Watch reported that Libyan government's crackdown on anti-government protesters in the eastern part of the country has led to the death of at least 200 people in five days of unrest.

The group said Nigerians and other nationals died when Libyan security forces fired on protesters in the second largest city of Benghazi, where crowds gathered for the funerals of other activists.

Arab media reports say at least 15 protesters were killed in Saturday's shootings, which some residents described as a "massacre."

Witnesses say snipers opened fire after the mourners tried to storm a military building and prison where some Nigerians were detained.

The demonstrations have been largely confined to Benghazi and other cities in eastern Libya since they began last Tuesday.

They represent an unprecedented challenge to the four-decade rule of Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, whose supporters have staged small rallies in the capital, Tripoli, in recent days.

The U.S. State Department has issued a warning to Americans to stay away from eastern Libya, saying more demonstrations and violent incidents are possible in the coming days. It also said even peaceful protests can quickly become unruly and foreigners "could become a target of harassment or worse."

Libyan authorities have also cut off Internet services in the country, denying cyber activists, a key tool to mobilise demonstrators.

There was no independent confirmation of Libyan witnesses' accounts of the violence, as the government has barred local and foreign journalists from covering the unrest.

British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, issued a statement urging Libya to stop using force against demonstrators, even as he said the violence is "clearly unacceptable and horrifying."

He also expressed concern about Libyan restrictions on media access.

Gadhafi has tried to defuse the protests by doubling the salaries of state employees and releasing 110 suspected Islamic militants.

He took power in a 1969 coup and has built his rule on a cult of personality and a network of family and tribal alliances. Speaking to Daily Independent on telephone, spokeman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Daniel Agwu, neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying only the Minister, Odein Ajumogobia, can speak on the matter.

Attempt to reach the Minister were usuccessful. However, a Ministry official that pleaded anonimity said they were yet to get such report from the Nigerian embassy in Tripoli.

Daily Indepenent

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500 Nigerians Return From Egypt

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