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“It was hell,” said one refugee. “We were treated like animals.”

The Egyptian border was a tangle of cars and tour buses, carrying the first wave of some 2 million Egyptians who work in Libya.

Gadhafi is crazy. It’s a massacre over there,” Ashraf Mohammed, a carpenter in Tobruk, Libya, told a reporter.

At a protest outside the Libyan Embassy in Washington, several dozen protesters shouted slogans against Col. Gadhafi. One Libyan medical student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, dismissed Col. Gadhafi’s claim that civil war would erupt if he left Libya.

“Look here,” he said, waving in the direction of a group of slogan-shouting youths. “They represent all the different tribes, and we are all united against one man.”

Ethiopians, Eritreans and Tunisians joined the protest. Yohannes Woube, an Ethiopian protester, said he hoped that the winds of change sweeping the Arab world would reach his country.

He clutched a placard that read: “Today Libya, tomorrow Ethiopia.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.