Protesters, Police Clash In Libya

This week in the city of Benghazi in Libya, hundreds of protesters clashed with government forces. It's just the latest addition to the list of Arab countries where people are protesting. We hear from BBC correspondent Jon Leyne, based in Cairo, who's covering events in Libya.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And you can add Libya to the list of Arab countries where people are protesting. Last night in the city of Benghazi, hundreds clashed with government forces. Witnesses say protesters set cars on fire and threw Molotov cocktails and stones.

The BBC's Jon Leyne is covering events in Libya from Cairo. And he explains one motivation behind the protests in Benghazi.

JON LEYNE: It's particularly related to an incident 15 years ago, alleged massacre in a prison in Abu Salim in Tripoli involving people from Benghazi, and it's been a long-running sore. The (unintelligible) government has refused to even to acknowledge until very recently the killings that went on in that prison.

And what particularly inflamed the people was when their lawyer was arrested by the authorities. So there seems to have been a confrontation between these protesters and they went and confronted government forces and there was quite a prolonged confrontation in the center of Benghazi that went on into the night.

Now, that was then followed today by a series of pro-government protests I guess the opposition would strongly suspect was staged by the government in various cities across Libya, which were put on state TV as obviously a way of trying to illustrate the loyalty, state TV would say, that people had for Colonel Gaddafi. So it wasn't a huge demonstration, but it was, obviously in the current climate. Some of them might unnerve the Libyan authorities.

NORRIS: Muammar al-Gaddafi has ruled Libya since 1969, more than 40 years. And according to the BBC's Jon Leyne, Benghazi is the city where the largest contingent of anti-government voices can be found.

LEYNE: There's been very little unrest there at all, of course, because of the very harsh rule of Colonel Gaddafi. But if you were to expect unrest first, that would be the place to go for Benghazi. The test, really, I think is going to be now whether this spreads to other cities. There had already been anti-government protests called for on Facebook for tomorrow, Thursday. So we'll have to see whether those calls are heeded and whether there really is a threat to the government, to the regime of Colonel Gaddafi.

NORRIS: That was Jon Leyne of the BBC.

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