In Egypt, Libyan Protests Seek Gadhafi Ouster
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
Human Rights Watch in Libya says a brutal crackdown on protesters is under way there. The organization says at least 200 people are dead, with many more wounded.
Accurate information on these numbers is very hard to come by. The government has cut off the Internet and is reportedly arresting those who speak with the media.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Cairo. Earlier today, at a demonstration in front of the Libyan embassy, she spoke to Libyans with family in the second largest city of Benghazi, where much of today's fighting has been reported.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR has received reports the protesters have taken control of many parts of Benghazi today. One doctor living in the U.S. who didn't want his name used for fear of reprisals against his family in Benghazi spoke with NPR.
He says the military has joined forces with the protesters to drive out African mercenaries that had been brought in by the regime of Muammar Gadhafi to quell the unrest.
Unidentified Man #1: I called my brother-in-law who lives in Benghazi. And he was, when I called him, was among the demonstration, and he was very joyful that people in Benghazi are celebrating that finally, you know, some armed personnel had joined them to protect them against the mercenaries.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR cannot confirm the veracity of that report, but other news agencies have also reported that at least some portion of the army has joined the protesters in Benghazi.
There is a live feed coming out of Libya from a youth movement there.
Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The broadcast on the Internet is apparently from an uplink they've managed to acquire. Confirmable news, though, is scant.
In a rare public admission of the unrest in Benghazi, though, Libyan state TV said today that an army base in the city had come under attack and had its walls breached. All indications are that the fight for Benghazi has been bloody.
Forces allied to the government have been using live ammunition against protesters. Human Rights Watch says that security forces attacked a funeral procession of those who have been killed the day before. The hospital has been overwhelmed and is running out of supplies.
Unidentified Group: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In Cairo, Libyan expatriates gathered in front of their embassy to protest the bloodshed.
Wadia Tatnakine spoke to her family in Benghazi today. She says the death toll is much higher than what has been reported so far.
Ms. WADIA TATNAKINE: My family are in Libya. I have family members in Libya. They tell you seven or 15 or 20 people died. On the road of which my house is on, there has been at least seven murders on that road, on one road. The women can't go further than their road. They're too scared.
So on this - our road, you have seven people dead, let alone in the whole country. How many people have died?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is anger here at the international community. Libya gets 95 percent of its international income from oil money, oil that is sold to Europe and America.
Protesters say the West has been propping up the corrupt and brutal regime of Muammar Gadhafi. Gadhafi, they say, has looted the country.
Despite the oil revenue, around two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 a day. Helmi Soufrakis is also from Benghazi.
Mr. HELMI SOUFRAKIS: Nobody is putting human rights before these petrodollars, and it seems - I'm not so political, but it's quite obvious that it is to the Western nations' benefit for there to have been regimes whom they can deal with as they wanted. And as a result, we've had repression in the Arab world for so long.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Helmi's brother, Hani Soufrakis, says few people in Libya are genuinely loyal to Gadhafi.
Mr. HANI SOUFRANKIS: He's bought a lot of people's loyalty. But the moment the people see the tide is turning, which is what we hope, you know, we hope that the message will come through to a lot of the people whom are close to him, and that obviously they might stop all this bloodshed and do something about the guy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Here in Cairo, Libya's representative to the Arab League tendered his resignation tonight to protest, quote, "the oppression against the protesters."
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Cairo.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.