A leadership congress controlled by Muammar Gaddafi has pledged a change in government administrators, trying to ease demonstrations demanding the longtime leader’s ouster.
Newspaper Quryna, which has ties to Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of Colonel Gaddafi’s sons, said on Friday that the country’s national congress has halted its session indefinitely and said many state executives will be replaced when it returns, AFP reported.
In addition to replacing top officials, it will endorse reforms to decentralise and restructure the government, it said. The site also said 1000 inmates at a prison in Benghazi attacked guards and escaped.
Three of them were shot dead by guards.
Protesters battled with security forces for control of neighbourhoods in eastern Libya where dozens have reportedly been killed in clashes.
On Saturday, Human Rights Watch said up to 84 people had been killed over three days, according to Al Jazeera. Unconfirmed reports on Twitter said the internet had been blocked, after Al Jazeera reported that its website had been blocked, and satellite signal turned off.
Mercenaries fight for Gaddafi: reports
Residents in the eastern city of Al-Baida said security reinforcements had been bused in, including what they said where foreign African mercenaries, to end protests where police stations were burned down.
But local police, who belong to the same tribe as the residents, were battling alongside protesters against security forces, two witnesses in the city said.
A hospital official in Al-Baida said on Friday that the bodies of at least 23 protesters slain over the past 48 hours were at his facility, which was treating about 500 wounded – some in the parking lot for lack of beds.
Another witness reported 26 protesters buried on Thursday and early on Friday.
“We need doctors, medicine and everything,” the hospital official said.
The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, and though several separate people gave similar reports, their accounts could not be independently confirmed.
The pro-democracy movement that has swept up the Middle East has taken off in Libya over the last four days, putting unprecedented pressure on Gaddafi, who has ruled virtually unchecked since 1969.
A pro-government website acknowledged that security forces in Benghazi opened fire on protesters on Thursday, but put the death toll at 14.
The Quryna site said security was “forced to fire live ammunition to stop the protesters, when their protests turned violent”.
Forces from the military’s elite Khamis Brigade moved into several cities, residents said.
‘Foreign mercenaries used’
They were accompanied by militias that seemed to consist of foreign mercenaries, residents said.
Several witnesses reported French-speaking fighters in blue uniforms, believed to be Tunisians or sub-Saharan Africans.
The Khamis Brigade are led by Gaddafi’s youngest son Khamis, and US diplomats in leaked memos have called it “the most well-trained and well-equipped force in the Libyan military”.
The witnesses’ reports that it had been deployed could not be independently confirmed.
But they said the brigade troops appeared to keep their distance, at times using snipers to try to disperse protesters.
Instead, the militiamen led the direct assault on protesters with knives and automatic weapons, residents in Benghazi and Al-Baida said.
In Al-Baida, several witnesses said local police joined the demonstrators to fight the militias, driving them out of many neighbourhoods.
The protesters demolished a military air base runway with bulldozers and set fire to police stations.
“These mercenaries are now hiding in the forests. We hear the gunshots all the time,” one witness said.
“We don’t have water, we don’t have electricity. They blocked many websites.”
Another said that residents are “now celebrating and cheering, after taking control over the city. They are chanting, ‘The people want the ouster of the colonel,'” in a reference to Gaddafi.
The witness claimed protesters were headed to Benghazi to join in the conflict there.
New videos from Al-Baida showed bloodstained bodies of the dead in a morgue, protesters torching a municipal building and demolishing a statue for the Green Book, which outlines Gaddafi’s “authority of the people”.
Protesters tore down a pro-Gaddafi billboard.
Two of the mercenaries were captured by the protesters and were taken to a square in the city and hanged, after they reportedly opened fire on protesters, said one witness.
A Switzerland-based Libyan opposition activist, Fathi al-Warfali, said he had reports of protesters lynching 11 captured mercenaries in Al-Baida, Benghazi and the town of Darnah on Friday.
In Zentan, a female resident said militiamen attacked the city after protesters set fire to police stations and sprayed graffiti on the walls that read: “Down with Gaddafi”.
Officials with loudspeakers offered money for residents to stop protesting, but then cut off electricity and water, the woman said, describing how she was standing on top of her building, watching the events.
Residents of Tripoli, where small protests took place in central districts, said that they received a text message to their mobile phones threatening people “who dare to violate the four red lines” which include Gaddafi himself, national security, oil and Libyan territory, said one woman who received the message.
Already, a newspaper regarded as a Gaddafi mouthpiece had threatened demonstrators.
“Whoever tries to violate them or touch them will be committing suicide and playing with fire,” an editorial in the Az-Zahf Al-Akhdar, or the Green March, newspaper said on Thursday.