February 18, 2011 / 1:40 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Exiles say Libyan city "in hands of people"

* Al Bayda said to be held by protesters joined by police

* Government forces reported fighting to retake control

(adds details, reports that militias trying to retake town)

GENEVA, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Anti-government protesters have seized control of the eastern Libyan city of al Bayda after they were joined by some local police, two Libyan exile groups said on Friday.

But later both Swiss-based groups, citing contacts in the city, said government militias had been rapidly reinforced and were now attacking to retake al Bayda, with the people fighting back with any weapons they could find.

“Al Bayda is in the hands of the people,” Giumma el-Omami of the Libyan Human Rights Solidarity group told Reuters in Geneva.

“The city is out of the control of the (Muammar) Gaddafi regime,” said Fathi al-Warfali of the Libyan Committee for Truth and Justice.

The reports, which the two groups said were based on their own telephone contacts with the city of some 250,000 people, could not be independently verified.

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