Thousands of protestors have clashed with police and pro-government supporters in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Bahrain, Yemen and Iran have also been rocked by violent demonstrations as the ripples of uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia spread across North Africa and the Gulf.
Libya has been tightly controlled by leader Moammar Gadhafi for over 40 years but last night some 2,000 protestors were reported to have demonstrated in the country’s second largest city. Stones were thrown at police, who are said to have responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Fourteen people were injured, including 10 police officers, the online edition of Libya’s privately-owned Quryna newspaper reported.
But 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.
The protesters were angry about the arrest of a human rights campaigner Fathi Terbil and demanded his release. Terbil represents relatives of more than 1,000 prisoners allegedly massacred by security forces in Tripoli’s Abu Salim jail in 1996. He is reported to have been later released.
One clip on Facebook showed protestors chanting outside a police station. Gunshots could be heard in the footage, and later an injured man is seen carried away from the scene.
The Middle East has seen a wave of protests fuelled by discontent over unemployment, rising living costs, corruption and autocratic leaderships.
This week there has also been anti-government demonstrations in Yemen, Bahrain, and Iran.
In Bahrain, the interior minister assured the nation that policemen suspected of involvement in the shooting deaths of two protesters have been detained.
On Wednesday, thousands of Bahrainis marched in the funeral procession of 31-year-old Fadhel Matrook. He was fatally wounded by a bullet while attending the funeral of another protester, who was killed on Monday amid widespread protests against government abuse.
Several thousand have camped out in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout, according to news reports, demanding democratic reforms and the release of all political prisoners.
In Yemen, the violence appeared to be escalating Wednesday as the protests entered their sixth consecutive day, with Al Jazeera reporting that dozens of students demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh were “set upon” by government supporters.
In Iran, fresh clashes have erupted in the capital Tehran during the funeral of a student killed in anti-government protests on Monday, according to Iranian state television.
Rival groups of pro- and anti-government protesters both claim the dead man as one of their supporters.
Sanea Jaleh, 26, was among two people killed during Monday’s protests, when thousands of opposition members rallied for the first time in more than a year.
The protests come amid a wave of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.