Benghazi was the scene of massive unrest against the Libyan regime over
the last two years. The city was said to contain major tribes that have
expressed dissatisfaction with government policies.
This marked the first significant protests against the Gadhafi regime
since the fall of neighboring Tunisia to massive civil unrest in January. On Feb. 11, President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power in
The opposition movement was said to have been organizing since the
clashes that led to the exile of Tunisian President Zein Al Abidine Bin Ali. The Libyan opposition, using similar tactics as in Egypt and Tunisia, has scheduled a so-called "Day of Rage" in Libya for Feb. 17.
So far, the Libyan demonstrators have focused on Prime Minister Baghdadi Al Mahmoudi. Witnesses said protesters called Al Mahmoudi and his government corrupt and demanded their dismissal.
The Libyan newspaper Quryna, controlled by the regime, said the
demonstrators arrived with firebombs and stones. The daily said 10 police
officers were injured in a clash with the protesters in Benghazi's Sharaja
Witnesses said many of the anti-riot police were dressed in plainclothes and pretended to be protesters. They said the security officers assaulted the demonstrators with batons and fired tear gas. Other security units sprayed hot water toward the protesters.
An opposition source said many of the protesters were relatives of
inmates at Tripoli's Abu Salim prison. The protesters arrived to demand the
release of their relatives, many of whom were jailed on suspicion of being
members of the Al Qaida-aligned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. In 2010,
Gadhafi released hundreds of members of the Islamist group.
The Libyan regime was said to have pledged to release the remaining
inmates linked to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. In 2010, the group
renounced violence and said it would cooperate with Gadhafi.