March 4th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Witness: Peaceful protesters mowed down in Libya

CNN Wire Staff

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) - "Indescribable" and deadly violence rippled through the Libyan city of Zawiya on Friday, according to a witness who said pro-government forces gunned down peaceful protesters.

The witness said battalions of forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi attacked the protesters with mortars and machine guns as they were demonstrating in the city's Martyrs Square, and they assaulted an ambulance, killing its occupants.

"We buried nine people so far," the witness said. "The attack was indescribable. Direct gunfire was opened on people."

It was unclear who controlled the city.

People in Zawiya, west of Tripoli, and "their public leadership have secured and took control over the city from the armed terrorist elements," state TV reported. Libyan government spokesman Majid al- Dursi told CNN that "Zawiya has been captured, Zawiya has been liberated."

However, the witness said protesters retained some control inside the city, which security forces were surrounding.

At least 15 people died and 200 others were wounded in the city, according to one doctor, who said there was "a river of blood" at the hospital where the wounded were being treated. "The situation is very bad," he said, adding that the facility was short of medical supplies.

It was not clear if the casualties at the hospital were wounded during the Martyrs Square confrontation. The doctor said the wounded started arriving at the hospital Friday morning, and most of the wounds were from gunshots.

In the capital city of Tripoli, security forces aboard flatbed trucks shot tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of protesters who had formed after Friday prayers in the Tajura neighborhood, witnesses said.

Government officials would not allow CNN into Tajura, whose outskirts were patrolled by a heavy security presence. Security forces were searching cars along the Corniche, a main street in the city.

Protesters had said they were hoping to march from the Corniche to the center of the city but were unable to do so.

Witnesses said anti-government protesters hid journalists in abandoned buildings and helped move them from location to location so that they could report firsthand in safety.

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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Renee Max

    If US is only using less than 1% of Libya's Gas, why are we spending so much at the pumps? Who is regulating this price hike?
    It has gone up more than 60 cents a gallon here in Tennessee....
    please do a story on this keeping them honest!
    Renee M

    March 4, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  2. Mak

    Has anyone seen this?
    Just watched Saif Al Qathafi being interviewed by Anita McNaught on Al Jazeera English. OMG! WHO's taking halucinogens?
    He's convinced that armed terrorists & "the organized media campaign" want to split his country and steal its oil wealth. He proudly explained that there is no uprizing now, but that Libyan's (as represented by the pro- regime supporters in Tripoli who he considered a significant majority) have now realized this threat and are united to save their country. He denied the presence of mercenaries- he said that they are "black" Libyans and to call them mercenaries is a form of discrimination! He denies that his family has ANY assets or bank accounts abroad and challenged Anita to prove it.
    It was unclear if he was promising democratic reform in his country as he said that now "everyone" has realized that these changes need to occur in Libya. He ended by promising a surprize in the coming days.???
    It seemed to me that he made little eye contact and his speech was rather jumpy. I'm not sure if that's his manner of speech, or if it's because he was unable to respond to her questions honestly, or.........the effect of something else!..........

    March 4, 2011 at 8:09 pm |