Libyan security forces shot dead dozens of protesters as they struggled to stamp out a revolt in the second city Benghazi as Bahrain’s rulers began talks with the opposition as unrest continued to sweep the Middle East.
Anti-government demonstrators in Bahrain swarmed into Pearl Square in Manama on Saturday, putting riot police to flight in a striking victory for their cause and confidently setting up camp for a protracted stay.
In Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, a witness told Reuters snipers had fired at protesters from a fortified compound.
“Dozens were killed … not 15, dozens. We are in the midst of a massacre here,” said the resident, who did not want to be named. The man said he helped take the victims to a local hospital during Saturday’s violence.
The Libyan authorities have not allowed foreign journalists into the country since the protests against Gaddafi erupted, and the witness’ account could not be independently verified.
Human Rights Watch says 84 people have been killed in Libya since the protests began, the death toll a reflection of the ferocity of the security crackdown mounted in response to anti-government protests that sought to emulate uprisings in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia.
Unrest has spread from those two countries, whose leaders were toppled, to Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait and Djibouti as people take to the streets demanding political and economic change.
Anti-government protests met varying degrees of force in Yemen, Algiers and Djibouti, while an Egyptian court approved a new party in a landmark ruling. Authorities in Saudi Arabia detained activists trying to set up the kingdom’s first political party.