Buildings on fire as anti-Gaddafi protests continue

Buildings on fire as anti-Gaddafi protests continue

Government buildings were set on fire Monday as anti-government protests spread to Tripoli amid reports of dozens of deaths in clashes between supporters and opponents of ageing leader Moamer Gaddafi, dpa reported.

Fighting in the Libyan capital erupted late Sunday, following similar protests in the second-largest city of Benghazi.

The People's Hall, the main government building in Tripoli where parliament meets, was ablaze, along with several police stations, witnesses said.

Lebanese television broadcaster NBN said protesters had torched other buildings, including the headquarters of Al-Jamahiriya Two television and Al-Shababia radio.

Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, citing medical sources, reported that at least 61 people had been killed during overnight clashes.

The fighting erupted after a speech by Saif al-Islam, one of Gaddafi's sons, in which he warned of the threat of civil war.

Unrest in the North African country has sent oil prices soaring, with Brent crude hitting a 29-month high of 104.43 dollars per barrel shortly before mid-day in Europe.

According to Libya's state-run Jamahiriya television, people from different tribes took to the streets in the early hours of Monday expressing support for Gaddafi, chanting "Long live the leader of the revolution."

Meanwhile, residents in Benghazi said calm had returned to the city after it was "liberated" by anti-Gaddafi protesters.

There were reports that local members of the army had defected to the opposition, with security forces fleeing to a nearby airport.

Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed in Benghazi since Tuesday, and activists are believed to have also taken control of other cities, including Ajdabiya.

The violence has sparked deep concern in Europe, with Germany, Sweden and other countries advising its citizens against travelling to Libya.

The Turkish government said it was evacuating thousands of Turkish citizens living in the country, while British Petroleum said it would do the same with "non-essential staff" working there.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has estimated the death toll from protests taking place in five Libyan cities since last week at 233.

Emboldened by successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of Libyans have been calling for the ouster of Gaddafi, who has been in power for 41 years.

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