Dozens of people were injured in clashes in Benghazi, a hospital in the eastern city said on Wednesday, as Libya braced for a “Day of Anger” following revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. The director of Al-Jala hospital, Abdelkarim Gubeaili, said that 38 people were treated for light injuries.
The riot in Libya’s second city was sparked by the arrest of human rights activist Fethi Tarbel, who has worked to free political prisoners, Quryna newspaper said. Security forces intervened to halt a confrontation between supporters of Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, who has been in power for more than 40 years, and the demonstrators, said the paper close to Gaddhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam.
The veteran leader is facing rare Internet calls for protests today by activists buoyed by the ouster of veteran strongmen on Libya’s borders, in Egypt and Tunisia.
One of the Facebook groups calling for a “Day of Anger” in Libya and anti-regime protest that had 4,400 members on Monday more than doubled in number to 9,600 by Tuesday after the Benghazi unrest.
West Asia erupts
Anti-government protests inspired by popular revolts that toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt are gaining pace around West Asia and North Africa despite political and economic concessions by nervous governments. Aside from Libya, new protests erupted in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Iraq on Wednesday.
The latest demonstrations against long-serving rulers came after US President Barack Obama, commenting on the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, declared: “The world is changing...if you are governing these countries, you’ve got to get out ahead of change, you can’t be behind the curve.”
In Egypt and Tunisia, workers demanding better pay and conditions are continuing to stage sporadic strikes, flexing their new-found “people power” as interim governments try to revive economies.
In Yemen, government loyalists wielding batons and daggers clashed with anti-government protesters in the capital, Sanaa, as police lost control of protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Protests also spread to other Yemeni cities.
In Iran, supporters and opponents of the hardline Islamic system clashed in Tehran during a funeral procession for a student shot at an anti-government rally two days ago.