Libyan security forces killed 35 people in the eastern city of Benghazi late on Friday, Human Rights Watch said, adding to dozens who have already died in the worst unrest of Muammar Gaddafi's four decades in power.
Protests against Gaddafi's rule, inspired by uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, broke out this week for the first time in years but were met with a fierce security crackdown, especially in the restive east of the country.
The New York-based watchdog said the killings on Friday took to 84 its estimate for the total death toll after three days of protests against a ruling elite which some in the east say has hoarded Libya's oil wealth and denied political freedom.
Friday's deaths in Benghazi happened when security forces opened fire on people protesting after funeral processions for victims of earlier violence, the group said. There has been no official word on the number of dead.
"We put out a call to all the doctors in Benghazi to come to the hospital and for everyone to give blood because I've never seen anything like this before," it quoted a senior hospital official in Benghazi as saying.
Away from the eastern region, the country appeared calm. A government-run newspaper blamed the protests on Zionism and the "traitors of the West," while officials said foreign media were exaggerating the scale of the violence in the east.
A Benghazi resident, who lives near the city center, said shooting could be heard on Friday night and that protesters attacked and damaged the state-run radio station near his home.
"I heard shooting last night until midnight," the resident, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters. "The radio station has been attacked ... We do not know what we are going to do."
He said most people were staying inside their houses because they were too frightened to go out.
The security forces in the streets were wearing yellow hats, the witness said, which are not part of standard Libyan police or army uniform. "They are not Libyans," he said.
Another Benghazi resident told Reuters from the city: "There are still a large number of protesters standing in front of Benghazi court. They have decided they are not going to move."
A security source said that there were still clashes going on in the region between Benghazi and the town of Al Bayda, about 200 km away, where local people said dozens have also been killed by security forces in the past 72 hours.
"The situation in the eastern area from Al Bayda to Benghazi is 80 percent under control ... A lot of police stations have been set on fire or damaged," the security source told Reuters. He also said: "Please do not believe what foreign radio and television are saying. Their information is not exact."
"FIGHTING STREET BY STREET"
A Benghazi resident quoted by the BBC and identified as Mohammed said special forces loyal to Gaddafi were struggling to control the town. "The people are fighting them street by street," the broadcaster quoted him as saying.
Away from the eastern region, there were no reliable reports of protests or violence and state television on Friday broadcast demonstrations in Tripoli in support of Gaddafi.
The state-run Alzahf Alakhdar, or Green March, newspaper published an editorial under the title: "No leader except Gaddafi!" and sent a defiant message to opponents of his rule.
"Our people are today more determined to face their challenges and to confront all the dirty plans and the conspiracies designed by America and Zionism and the traitors of the West."
Support for Gaddafi in the region that includes Benghazi, about 1,000 km (600 miles) east of Tripoli, has historically been weaker than in the rest of the country.
Libya-watchers say an Egypt-style nationwide revolt is unlikely because Gaddafi has oil cash to smooth over social problems and he is also still respected in much of the country.
Foreign journalists have not been allowed to enter Libya since the unrest began, local reporters have been barred from traveling to Benghazi and mobile phone connections to towns in the east of the country have frequently been out of service.
Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera said its signal was being jammed on several frequencies and its website had been blocked in Libya.
The privately-owned Quryna newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying the General People's Congress, or parliament, would adopt a "major shift" in government policy, including appointing new people to senior positions. It gave no details and the sources could not be clarified.
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