February 19, 2011 / 10:40 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Dozens killed in Libya clashes-witness

* Dozens killed in security clampdown

* Snipers firing at protestors

(Adds detail, quotes)

TRIPOLI, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with Libyan security forces in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday, a witness said, in the worst unrest in Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades in power.

Snipers fired at protesters from a compound to which they had withdrawn, said the resident, who did not want to be named.

“Dozens were killed ... not 15, dozens. We are in the midst of a massacre here,” he said. The man said he helped take the victims to a local hospital.

The Libyan authorities have not allowed foreign journalists into the country since the protests against Gaddafi erupted, and the witness’ account could not be independently verified.

The witness said the security forces had established a 50-metre (yard) buffer perimeter around a “command centre” into which they had retreated, and fired at anyone approaching it.

He said people were killed “after protesters tried to break into the command centre but were fired at by security sources from watch towers and locations close to the centre.”

Another resident had also earlier said the security forces were confined to a compound, which he too called the “command centre”.

Human Rights Watch said earlier that 84 people had been killed over the past three days in a fierce security crackdown mounted in response to anti-government protests that sought to emulate uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.

The violence was concentrated around Benghazi, some 1,000 km (625 miles) east of the capital, where support for Gaddafi traditionally has been weaker than in the rest of the country. There was no sign of a nationwide revolt.

The resident said the violence was beginning to hurt food supplies.

“Problems affecting food supplies started today with long queues for bread and bakeries rationing supplies. We can’t buy more than half a dinar worth of bread a day,” he said.

The government has not released any casualty figures or made any official comment on the violence. (Reporting by Souhail Karam in Rabat; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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