Violence breaks out in Libya following protesters′ funerals | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 18.02.2011
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Violence breaks out in Libya following protesters' funerals

Thousands of people in Libya staged further rallies on Friday, following a "Day of Anger" against President Moammar Gadhafi's government on Thursday in which several people were reported killed.


Protesters staged a 'Day of Anger' against Moammar Gadhafi

Thousands of people attended the funerals of anti-goverment protesters, who were killed in the eastern city of Benghazi during Thursday's "Day of Anger" rallies. At least 20 people are believed to have died in the clashes with Libyan security forces.

Opposition activists said further violent protests broke out after the funerals.

Political anaylsts point out that Libya's relative oil wealth should allow Gadhafi's government to make social and economic concessions, which could stifle an Egypt-style uprising.

However the unrest in Benghazi, the traditional home of the opposition, could still spark a nationwide revolt.

Libyan riot police

Libya's security forces moved quickly to quell the protests

The citizens of Benghazi have a history of antagonism against Gadhafi, who has been in power for more than 40 years, but the city is an anomaly in Libya.

Home of the opposition could provide the spark

Seen as the home of the country's opposition, many Benghazis refused to support Gadhafi when he came to power in a military coup in 1969. As such, unlike the rest of the country, Benghazi has been cut out of much of the country's oil wealth.

"There is a long history of opposition to Gadhafi's idiosyncratic and fiercely repressive regime, but protesting has not been common," Dr. Alia Brahimi, a Libya expert at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told Deutsche Welle.

Brahimi said this was due to the regime's zero-tolerance policy to any form of independent political gathering or organization.

"The state's response has been iron-fisted every time," Brahimi said. "Yet anger at dire socio-economic conditions and the regime's brutality has periodically boiled over onto the streets, particularly in Benghazi and the eastern region of Cyrenaica. The Islamists which emerged to violently challenge Gadhafi in the 1990s were mainly drawn from the Cyrenaican slums."

Dana Moss, a Libya expert and Adjunct Fellow at the Washington Institute, said much of the agitation came for those areas traditionally hostile to the Gadhafi regime.

"These areas have seen continuous hostility and sporadic disturbances aimed at the Gadhafi regime such as the rally against the Muhammad cartoons which turned into an anti-regime demonstration in 2006," Moss told Deutsche Welle.

With a feeling of empowerment sweeping through Arab states, there is a chance that the Benghazi protest may be the spark that ignites simmering resentment elsewhere in the country, especially among Islamic groups which have been clamped down on since Gadhafi renounced terrorism and reached out to the West in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

Libyan opposition already employing Internet tactics

Logos from Twitter RSS und Youtube.

Protestors have utilized Internet tools to rally support

There are early signs that the opposition is utilizing social networking sites in the same way that the Tunisian and Egytian movements did in the early stages of their own uprisings.

It has also been reported that a Facebook page has been set up to relay information to opposition supporters over the past few days.

The page carried information on the strength of the security forces in Tripoli, advising protestors that no military units were yet in the capital, suggesting the regime was either taken by surprise or expecting little resistance.

Reports have since filtered through that the regime is trying to clampdown on the Internet with Facebook and Twitter accounts being suspended.

If the unrest spreads and grows into a nationwide anti-government movement - like those seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Algeria - analysts believe that oil-rich Libya is better equipped to deal with any political upheaval.

Read more about Libya's power structures

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