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Rights group says 24 killed in Libya protests

RIA Novosti

12:50 18/02/2011 MOSCOW, February 18 (RIA Novosti) - Libyan security forces have killed at least 24 protesters and injured many others in a crackdown on peaceful demonstrations across the country, Human Rights Watch said.

Hundreds of peaceful protesters took to the streets on Thursday in Baida, Benghazy, Zenten, Derna, and Ajdabiya.

Inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, Libyan protesters also called for a "Day of Rage" on Thursday in a bid to challenge the 41-year rule of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, who has been accused of human rights abuses.

"The security forces' vicious attacks on peaceful demonstrators lay bare the reality of Muammar Qadhafi's brutality when faced with any internal dissent," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Libyans should not have to risk their lives to make a stand for their rights as human beings."

The authorities should cease the use of lethal force unless absolutely necessary to protect lives and open an independent investigation into the lethal shootings, Human Rights Watch said.

"It is remarkable that Qadhafi is still copying the very same tactics that failed Hosni Mubarak so completely just across the border," Whitson said. "Using security forces and armed thugs to deny people the right to express their opposition to the government increasingly looks destined to fail."

Qadhafi, who came to power on the back of a 1969 coup, is the longest-serving leader in both Africa and the Arab world.

The spark for the protest was believed to be the detention of human rights lawyer Fathi Terbil by the Libyan security forces. Terbil was reportedly later released.

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