International

Libya: Opposition Groups Claim They Control Several Cities

"Anti-Gadhafi demonstrators have taken over several cities in eastern Libya but have suffered scores of deaths, according to exiled opposition groups in London," The Guardian reports.

Reuters is saying that it has been told by "two separate Libyan exile groups" that "anti-government protesters have seized control of the eastern Libyan city of al Bayda after they were joined by some local police."

And the BBC reports that "witnesses in the Libyan city of Benghazi say hundreds of people, at least, have gathered for an anti-government protest. A lawyer in Benghazi told the BBC that thousands of people were outside the city's courthouse." (The BBC also continues to live-blog events in the region here.)

As we cautioned yesterday, it's very difficult to get a solid look into what's happening in Libya because there just aren't that many independent journalists in the country right now.

NPR's Andy Carvin (@acarvin) is following what's being posted on Twitter about events in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and other countries being rocked by protests. There's also lots of information being collected by StoryfulPro (@storyfulpro).

Update at 4:51 p.m. ET: Quoting an unnamed doctor in Benghazi, the AP reports that 35 protesters were killed today:

He says witnesses and survivors told him most of the victims came from an attempted protest outside the residential compound used by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi when he visits Benghazi. He says security forces inside the compound fired on protesters demonstrating outside. The doctor spoke on condition his name not be used for fear of retaliation. He said he could not keep track of the number of wounded.

Update at 3:25 p.m. ET: A doctor in Benghazi, Libya, spoke with All Things Considered host Michele Norris by telephone this afternoon. Brayka (she asked that her full name not be used because she fears government reprisal) said a large protest continues in her city and that in recent days, "many people [were] killed" and "there was a hundred of injured people [sic] — between moderate and serious injuries — in the hospitals ... of Benghazi."

Brayka

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Brayka

Also, Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch told Michele that her organization is "fairly confident" that the death toll in Libya will rise from the 24 that Human Rights Watch now estimates have died.

More from Michele's conversations with them will be on today's edition of ATC. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

Update at 1:55 p.m. ET: Among the things Andy is monitoring is an English translation of an anti-government "pirate radio" broadcast.

Update at 1:15 p.m. ET. The White House just released this statement from President Obama:

"I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur. We express our condolences to the family and friends of those who have been killed during the demonstrations.

"Wherever they are, people have certain universal rights including the right to peaceful assembly. The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests, and to respect the rights of their people."

Update at 11:10 a.m. ET: "A Libyan website affiliated with one of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi's sons said Friday that the national congress has halted its session indefinitely and indicated amid widespread unrest that it will take steps to reform the government when it reconvenes," The Associated Press reports.

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