DAVID D KIRKPATRICK,ANTHONY SHADID & MONA EL-NAGGAR
Libyan security forces opened fire again Sunday on residents of Benghazi as they attended a funeral procession for the dozens of protesters killed there the day before,and quickly crushed three smaller uprisings in the capital,Tripoli.
It was the fifth day of protests in what has become the most serious challenge to four decades of Muammar el-Gaddafis rule. The escalating violence in Benghazi,Libyas second-largest city,appeared to mark a decisive turn in the protests. The shooting at the funeral,where the number of casualties could not immediately be confirmed,reinforced what seems to have become a deadly cycle in a city where thousands have gathered in antigovernment demonstrations: security forces fire on funeral marches,killing more protesters,creating more funerals.
Earlier in the day,thousands had returned to the courthouse in Benghazi. Idris Ahmed al-Agha,a Libyan writer said the crowd had grown to more than 20,000 by midday an account confirmed by others.
By Sunday morning,the number of confirmed deaths around the country had risen to at least 173 people,most of them in Benghazi,Human Rights Watch reported.
The scope of the crackdown was almost impossible to verify. But doctors reached by Al Jazeera said perhaps hundreds were killed and wounded in the fighting in Benghazi Saturday. A Benghazi resident who visited the hospital said 200 were dead and 850 wounded; if confirmed,that would substantially raise the death toll by Human Rights Watch,which reported 20 people killed Saturday.
It is too late for dialogue now, said a Benghazi resident. Too much blood has been shed.
In Tripoli,residents reported Sunday that there had been smaller uprisings in three suburbs,all crushed. With Internet and telephone outages,and reports of security forces visiting homes of those who spoke with journalists,Libyans scrambled Sunday to broadcast news of the clashes.
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