Hundreds of people have clashed with police and pro-government supporters in the Libyan city of Benghazi, reports say.
Eyewitnesses told the BBC the overnight unrest followed the arrest of an outspoken critic of the government.
The lawyer was later said to have been released but the protests continued.
Pro-democracy protests have swept through several Arab countries in recent weeks, forcing the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt from power.
A call has been put out on the internet for protests across Libya on Thursday.
‘Police injured’There is no independent confirmation of the overnight protests in Benghazi, but eyewitnesses say that at one stage some 2,000 people were involved.
They say stones were thrown at police who are said to have responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Footage of the unrest was later posted on the internet.
One clip on Facebook – published by someone who said it was recorded on Tuesday – showed people chanting outside what looked like a police station. Gunshots could be heard in the footage, and later an injured man is seen carried away from the scene.
Libya’s state television showed pictures of several hundred people in Benghazi voicing their support for the government. The government has so far not commented on events in the port city, about 1,000 km (600 miles) east of the capital Tripoli.
Fourteen people were injured, including 10 police officers, the online edition of Libya’s privately-owned Quryna newspaper reported.
One witness, who did not want to be named, later told the BBC: “A couple of people in the crowd started chanting anti-government slogans and the crowd took that on.
- Libya’s second-largest city with some 670,000 residents
- has history of antagonism with Col Gaddafi since 1969 coup
- many relatives of inmates allegedly killed at Abu Salim prison in 1996 live in city
- hit world headlines with HIV infection trial involving Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor in 1998
“But then there were clashes with pro-government supporters and then after a bit the pro-government supporters were dispersed and then the security services arrived and they dispersed the crowds with hot-water cannons.”
Another Benghazi resident told Reuters on Wednesday that the city was now “quiet”.
“The banks are open and the students are going to school,” said the witness, who did not want to be identified.
Tuesday’s protests began after the arrest of Fathi Terbil, who represents relatives of more than 1,000 prisoners allegedly massacred by security forces in Tripoli’s Abu Salim jail in 1996, reports say.
Sources say he was held after telling relatives of current inmates that the prison was on fire and urging them to protest. Mr Terbil was later said to have been freed.
Reports from Libya say that 110 members of a banned militant group will be freed from Abu Salim later on Wednesday. It is not clear if the Benghazi clashes and the planned release of the inmates are connected.
Worrying signThe reported unrest comes a day before planned anti-government demonstrations on Thursday, which are being organised via the internet.
Col Gaddafi, who has been in power since 1969, has suggested he might join the protests himself, the BBC’s Jon Leyne reports.
Col Gaddafi has always insisted that the country is run by a series of peoples’ committees, though most outside observers believe it is a police state with him firmly in control, our correspondent says.
He adds that although the Benghazi protest is a worrying sign for Col Gaddafi, it is unlikely that the regime will lose power tomorrow.
The Middle East has seen a wave of protests fuelled by discontent over unemployment, rising living costs, corruption and autocratic leaderships.
This began with the overthrow of Tunisia’s leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in January.
Last week, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned.
In recent days there have also been anti-government demonstrations in Yemen, Bahrain, and Iran.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
his primary challenge = FT = 62 = Arrest. Prisoner. Dealing with restrictions.