Clash breaks out as Libya braces for 'Day of Anger'

The director of Al-Jala hospital, Abdelkarim Gubeaili, told AFP that 38 people were treated for light injuries. Quryna newspaper said security forces and demonstrators clashed late yesterday in what it branded the work of "saboteurs" among a small group of protesters.

The security forces intervened to halt a confrontation between supporters of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, who has been in power for more than 40 years, and the demonstrators, said the paper close to Kadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam.

The veteran leader is facing rare Internet calls for protests today by activists buoyed by the ouster of veteran strongmen on Libya's borders, in Egypt and Tunisia. One of the Facebook groups calling for a "Day of Anger" in Libya and anti-regime protest that had 4,400 members on Monday more than doubled in number to 9,600 by yesterday morning after the Benghazi unrest.

The European Union, meanwhile, urged Libyan authorities to allow "free expression" in the North African nation and listen to protesters. The protest started as a sit-in by families of prisoners killed in a 1996 shooting in Tripoli's Abu Salim prison demanding the release of their lawyer, Fethi Tarbel, Libyan newspapers said.

Tarbel had been detained for having "spread rumours that the prison (in Tripoli) was on fire," according to Quryna, but was released after the demonstration. But the crowd of protesters grew and they began chanting anti-regime slogans such as "The people will end the corruption" and "The blood of the martyrs will not be in vain," before police moved in to disperse them.

Police used force to disperse the crowd gathered outside a police post, it said, while the BBC quoted witnesses as saying stones were thrown at police who responded with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.

Marchers later hurled Molotov cocktails in a downtown square, damaging cars, blocking the road and hurling rocks, Quryna said.

Soon afterwards, state television showed hundreds of demonstrators in the streets of Benghazi as well as Tripoli, Syrte and Sebha in support for Kadhafi, who seized power in a 1969 coup which ousted a Western-backed monarchy.

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