Libya's Tools of Suppression

In a deadly campaign against demonstrators, pro-Gaddafi forces are using tanks, sniper rifles and even rocket-propelled grenades to quash the opposition

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The death toll in Libya continued to rise Sunday as scattered reports reached Western and Middle East news services. Human Rights Watch has confirmed 173 deaths while eyewitness accounts from doctors and hospital workers pegged the number at 200. As crowds protest the more than 40 year reign of Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan government has waged a brutal crackdown on demonstrations and funeral processions. Here are the means by which pro-Gaddafi forces are suppressing demonstrators:

Machine Guns  At a Sunday morning funeral procession in the eastern city of Benghazi, the Associated Press reports that government forces fired machine guns at mourners resulting in 15 deaths. The BBC confirmed the account, noting "machine-gun and heavy weapons fire." A Libyan doctor tells Al Jazeera "The military is shooting at all the protesters with live bullets, I've seen it happen with my own eyes."

Missile Fire  Shockingly, London's Telegraph reports that one Benghazi mourner was killed after being "struck on the head by an anti-aircraft missile." Elsewhere in the city, The Wall Street Journal is observing "full-fledged urban warfare" involving rocket-propelled grenades fired by pro-Gadhafi loyalists. A Benhazi resident is quoted as saying "There are some criminals driving cars shooting at people and they are using antitank weapons such as rocket propelled grenades, the bullets are the size of my hand."

Sniper Fire The New York Times details reports of sniper fire shot from an army base at mourners en route to a cemetery. Opposition groups have begun chronicling the attack on a Facebook page with images of citizens being shot in the head. The Times quotes a Human Rights Watch researcher in the region who says Libyan security forces “do not feel there are limits on how far they can go in suppressing protests.”

Mercenaries  Demonstrators are claiming that "French-speaking African mercenaries" have been recruited by the government to attack them. The Telegraph has the story: 

A Libyan journalist said of the African mercenaries: "The soldiers are vicious killers. People are so terrified of them that they've been doing everything possible to get away.

"Women and children were seen jumping off Giuliana Bridge in Benghazi to escape. Many of them were killed by the impact of hitting the water, while others were drowned."

Fatih, 26, another Benghazi resident, said: "A lot of the thugs he's employing are not Arabic speakers. They're armed to the teeth and only use live ammunition. They don't ask questions – they just shoot. Buildings and cars have been set on fire here, and the situation is getting worse. The dead and injured are everywhere.

"The mercenaries shoot from helicopters and from the top of roofs. They don't care who they kill."

Internet Cut  Al Jazeera notes that "in addition to TV signal jamming, internet service has been cut." Though, as of today, Libyan residents were still able to use telephones.

Tanks  The Telegraph quotes a Benghazi cleric who has compiled a list of 16 people he saw killed. "I saw with my own eyes a tank crushing two people in a car," he said. "They didn't do any harm to anyone."

The People Fight Back  According to the Daily Mail, anti-government protesters in Al-Bayda, Ajdabiya, Zawiya, and Darnah have been using "Molotov cocktails, rifles and even antique Arabic sabres" to fend of pro-Gaddafi forces.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.