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Libyan website says national congress halts session amid protests
CAIRO (AP) — A Libyan website affiliated with one of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi’s sons said Friday that the national congress, under pressure from widespread unrest, has halted its session indefinitely and will take steps to reform the government when it reconvenes.
The website Quryna, which has ties to Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, said many state executives will be replaced when the congress returns.
Four days of pro-democracy protests in Libya have pushed for an end to Moammar Gadhafi’s rule and have left dozens of demonstrators dead after clashes with security forces nationwide. There was another violent demonstration Friday in the eastern city of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest.
Gamal Bandour, a judge in Benghazi, said marchers clashed with security after a funeral where the bodies of 15 protesters shot to death on Thursday were buried. On their way back from the service, protesters set fire to government buildings and police stations.
Quryna said security personnel fired on the Benghazi protesters, killing 13 of them.
“The security forces were forced to use live bullets to stop the protesters, when their protests turned violent and aggressive as they set fire to police stations in the city, attacked administrative buildings and set fire to police vehicles including six in front of Jalaa Hospital,” it said.
The site also said 1,000 inmates at a prison in Benghazi attacked guards and escaped, though three of them were shot dead by guards.
The wave of pro-democracy protests that has swept across the Middle East has brought unprecedented pressure on leaders like Col. Gadhafi, who have held virtually unchecked power for decades.
Libya is oil-rich, but the gap between its haves and have-nots is wide. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates about one-third of Libyans live in poverty, and some demonstrators say that places outside the capital city of Tripoli have been badly neglected by the government.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said 24 people died across the nation in unrest Wednesday and Thursday.
But the number quickly seemed outdated. Besides the deaths in Benghazi, a hospital official in the eastern city of Beyida told The Associated Press on Friday that the bodies of at least 23 slain protesters were at his facility, which was treating about 500 wounded — some in the parking lot for lack of beds.
“We need doctors, medicine and everything,” he said. The official spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
By Donald Lambro
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