Opposition says over 560 killed in Libya protests

Opposition says over 560 killed in Libya protests

More than 560 people have been killed in Libya since the unrest began, according to estimates by the opposition. About 1,400 people were still missing, broadcaster Al Arabiya reported Tuesday.

An unconfirmed number of bodies of people killed in the protests in Janzour, a town on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli, were lying on the streets Tuesday, an opposition news website reported.

The Libya al-Youm website reported that armed men were preventing people from leaving Janzour, DPA reported.

However, the mood in Benghazi, which saw some of the worst bloodshed of the Libyan uprising, was calmer Tuesday. But protests continued as hundreds slept outside the city's central courthouse overnight, a resident told the German Press Agency dpa by telephone.

The widening protests entered their seventh day on Tuesday, following Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's 20-second appearance on state television overnight to refute reports that he had fled the capital.

Gaddafi - sitting in a car in Tripoli holding an umbrella - said: "I am in Tripoli. I am not in Venezuela."

The footage was broadcast after 24 hours of speculation that Libya's leader of 41 years had left for South America.

A resident in coastal Benghazi, where at least 230 people are thought to have been killed in recent days according to Human Rights Watch, said: "Some people were scared. Families and children went home after Gaddafi's remarks. But many stayed until early morning and others slept outside the courthouse."

The resident, who only wanted to be named as Fathi, for fear of reprisals, said that the Saaka, or Libyan marines, had joined the protesters in Benghazi and promised security.

"Removing the government is the number one demand of protesters because there is a lot of bloodshed, there is no way they will back up on their demands," Fathi told dpa.

The death toll from the protests calling for Gaddafi's ouster is expected to have reached 150 in Tripoli, according to witnesses.

Other cities are also reporting deaths but casualty figures for areas beyond the capital are difficult to independently verify due to the government's clampdown on communications and travel.

The chaotic situation in Libya is to be discussed in a closed session of the United Nations Security Council in New York.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday called for an international independent investigation into the violent suppression of the protests.

"Widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity," said the UN's Navi Pillay.

Several overseas Libyan diplomats have resigned in protest at the regime's crackdown.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference also joined in condemning the violence, saying it considered the violence against protesters in Libya "a humanitarian disaster incompatible with Islamic and human values."

Unconfirmed reports speak of foreign militias gunning down demonstrators, snipers in the capital and the Libyan air force shooting at protesters from the air.

On Monday two Libyan fighter jets landed in Malta, with their pilots defecting in revolt at the command to attack demonstrators.

The demonstrations follow popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, where long-time rulers were ousted.

The Egyptian Army has meanwhile announced that the border to Libya would be open for anyone who wants to flee and Egyptian aid convoys are on hand to assist.

However, according to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, the runway of Benghazi airport has been totally destroyed and no planes will be able to land there to bring back hundreds of Egyptians working in Libya.

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