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Libyan death toll rising after violent crackdown

Thousands in Libya have returned to the streets demanding the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi. One rights group put the death toll at 173 or more. The unrest comes as protests continued in Bahrain, Yemen and Morocco.

Moammar Gadhafi

Mommar Gadhafi insists he will 'die on Libyan land'

Eyewitness reports in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Sunday said thousands of people had returned to the streets to demand the overthrow of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The protest came in the wake of a day of bloodshed on Saturday, during which Libyan security forces in Benghazi opened fire on mourners leaving a funeral where victims killed in earlier protests were buried.

"Dozens were killed ... We are in the midst of a massacre here," a witness told the Reuters news agency. The man said he had helped take victims to hospital in Benghazi.

Pro-Gadhafi supporters gather in Tripoli

Pro-Gadhafi supporters gathered in the capital Tripoli

New-York based Human Rights Watch said the Saturday killings brought the death toll from the Libya protests to at least 173 since Tuesday, with HRW adding that the toll was "conservative."

"It is a very incomplete figure and there are also a very large number of wounded," said spokesman Tom Porteous.

The Associated Press quoted hospital officials on Sunday saying over 200 bodies had been found in Benghazi.

Libyan security forces also clashed with anti-regime demonstrators in the city of Misrata on Sunday, as protests spread closer to the capital, Tripoli, which has remained free of anti-government protests.

The Libyan government has yet to make any official comment on the violence, amid numerous calls from international leaders to renounce violence.

Gadhafi, in response to the protests, said neither he nor his family would ever consider leaving, insisting rather that he would "die on Libyan land."

The Austrian government said Sunday it was sending a military plane to Malta where it would be on hand to evacuate Austrian and European citizens from Libya and other Arab countries if needed.

"The escalation of the situation in Libya has made preparations for the evacuation of Austrian as well as European Union nationals necessary," Defense Minister Norbert Darabos said.

EU meeting

EU foreign ministers gathered in Brussels late Sunday for a special brainstorming dinner on the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, as the bloc's top diplomat expressed concern about the latest developments.

"I think of Libya, I think of what's been happening in Bahrain on the weekend ... we urge restraint, we urge an end to violence and we urge dialogue," the European Union's High Representative Catherine Ashton told journalists before chairing the ministerial talks.

"I'm really worried about what's been happening in Libya at the present time. We've been urging restraint, we continue to do, it's very important ... that violence stops," she insisted.

Protests continue in Bahrain, Yemen

Libya is just one of the countries that have witnessed anti-government protests in the wake of popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia that resulted in the toppling of regimes there.

In Bahrain, anti-government protests also continued on Sunday, with hundreds gathering in the capital Manama after police and soldiers were ordered to withdraw.

Bahraini protesters at Pearl Square

Bahraini forces withdrew from Pearl Square on Saturday

Crown Prince Sheikh Salman said protesters would "absolutely" be allowed to stay in the square ahead of talks between the mainly Shiite opposition and the Sunni Muslim dynasty. Shiites have said they are discriminated against and want a greater say in decision making.

"All political parties in the country deserve a voice at the table," Salman told CNN before talks with the opposition. "I think there is a lot of anger, a lot of sadness ... We are terribly sorry and this is a terrible tragedy for our nation."

In Yemen, hundreds of students demonstrated on Sunday calling for an end to the regime of US-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power of the divided country for 32 years.

Students clashed with Saleh supporters outside a university in the capital Sanaa. Reports said riot police watched the march but had not yet intervened.

Morocco joins the list

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Morocco on Sunday, adding the country to the list of Middle Eastern and North African nations that have recently seen pro-democracy demonstrations.

Protesters demanded that King Mohammed VI give up some of his powers and clamp down on corruption.

Some people in the Moroccan capital Rabat waved Tunisian and Egyptian flags in recognition of the recent popular uprisings.

Uniformed police kept their distance from the protests, and the crowd remained peaceful.

Demonstrators chanted "down with autorcracy" and "the people reject a constitution made for slaves." However, they stopped short of calling for the removal of the king himself.

Author: Gabriel Borrud, Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

Editor: Sean Sinico, Kyle James

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