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LIBYA: Protests for and against Moammar Kadafi

February 17, 2011 |  9:07 am


There was no sign of anti-government demonstrations in Tripoli on Thursday, according to Reuters, while hundreds of demonstrators supporting longtime leader Moammar Kadafi crowded the city's Green Square chanting "We are defending Gaddafi!" and waving his portrait.

Traffic was normal in the capital, banks and shops were open and there was no increased security presence, Reuters reported.

Tripoli resident Ahmed Rehibi told Reuters that anti-government protests were an unnecessary distraction.

"We should be concentrating on working, on our schools, because now we are trying to build up our infrastructure," he said.

Meanwhile, a resident of the eastern town of Al Bayda, near Benghazi, Libya's second city, told Reuters there was a confrontation Thursday between government supporters and relatives of two young men killed during a protest a day earlier. Fighting broke out soon after the two were buried.

"The situation is still complicated," said the resident, who did not want to be identified when contacted by telephone by Reuters on Thursday. "The young people do not want to listen to what the elders say."

Libya's Quryna newspaper had earlier reported that the regional security chief in Al Bayda was removed from his post because of the controversy surrounding the deaths of the two young men. There were reports of higher death tolls, but they could not be confirmed by Reuters.

Protesters clashed with police and Kadafi supporters on Tuesday night in Benghazi.

One online post said protesters in Ar Rajban, near the border with Algeria, set fire to a local government headquarters Thursday. In Zenten, south-west of Tripoli, protesters shouted, "We will win or die" on Thursday, according to another post, which linked to a photograph of a building on fire.

Libya has felt the impact of recent uprising in neighboring countries, but it has also been tightly controlled for over 40 years by Kadafi, now Africa's longest-serving leader.

"We have problems," Mustafa Fetouri, a Tripoli-based political analyst and university professor, told Reuters. "This is a society that is still behind in many ways; there are certain legitimate problems that have to be sorted out."

But he said, "I do not really see it [unrest] spreading‚Ķ [Kadafi] remains well respected."

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Libyan pro-government supporters shout slogans and hold portraits of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi during a pro-government gathering in Tripoli on Thursday. Hundreds of Libyans were demonstrating nationwide Thursday in support of the government, chanting "We are defending Gaddafi and the revolution!'"and "The revolution continues!" Credit: Sabri Elmhedwi/EPA