Libyans Flee Across Border To Egypt

Egyptian officials say the country's border with Libya is no longer manned by Libyan troops. The Egyptian army is regulating the flow between the two countries. Several aid convoys carrying medical supplies are traveling to the border to help Libyans in the east.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In the Libyan capital, Tripoli, today, a violent crackdown on protesters. We're also getting more details about the situation in eastern Libya, where the uprising began.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is close to the Egypt-Libya border, and she filed this report.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: According to Egyptian officials, the border is no longer manned by Libyan troops. The Egyptian army is regulating the flow between the two countries. Several aid convoys carrying medical supplies are traveling to the border to help Libyans in the east. Coming out of Libya are activists like Suleiman al-Zugeilil. He left Libya today and spoke to NPR in the Egyptian coastal city of Marsa Matrouh.

Mr. SULEIMAN al-ZUGEILIL (Activist): (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says that security forces loyal to Gadhafi have fled from the towns of Tobruk, al-Baida and Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, the scene of fierce fighting over the weekend.

In Benghazi, he says, part of the local armored brigade defected, allowing the protesters to gain control of most of the city. It's quieter there today, he says. In al-Baida, al-Zugeilil says the regime sent in the Khamis Brigade, a special forces unit named after and led by one of Gadhafi's sons. They attacked the protesters, but were forced back by the local police who joined the demonstrators.

A few of those loyalists are now surrounded at an airport about 12 miles outside of al-Baida, but the anti-regime protesters basically have their own armed militia. The weapons, he says, have either been looted from police stations or given to the protesters by security forces that switched sides during the fighting.

(Soundbite of crowd)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In videos smuggled out of Libya and provided to NPR, residents of al-Baida are seen cursing the corpse of what they say is an African mercenary in pay of the regime. Hung upside down by his ankle, a small child beats the body with a stick. NPR has not been able to independently verify the reports, though they broadly concur with accounts from others on the ground in Libya. The Egyptian army is not allowing journalists to cross the border.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Marsa Matrouh, Egypt.

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