Libyan Muslim leaders urge military to stop shooting protesters
The bloody crackdown on protesters in Libya has prompted about 50 Libyan Muslim religious leaders to issue an appeal to the security forces as Muslims to stop the killing or face the wrath of God.
Dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with Libyan security forces in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday, an eyewitness told Reuters, in the worst unrest in Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades in power. Snipers fired at protesters from a compound to which they had withdrawn, said the resident, who did not want to be named.
“Dozens were killed … not 15, dozens. We are in the midst of a massacre here,” the eyewitness resident in Benghazi said. Human Rights Watch said earlier that 84 people had been killed over the past three days in a fierce security crackdown mounted in response to anti-government protests that sought to emulate uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.
The Libyan Muslim leaders, who could not give their names for security reasons, sent an appeal to Reuters through a reliable source. “This is an urgent appeal from religious scholars (faqihs and Sufi sheikhs), intellectuals, and clan elders from Tripoli, Bani Walid, Zintan, Jadu, Msalata, Misrata, Zawiah, and other towns and villages of the western area of our beloved Libya to all of humanity, to all men and women of good will,” said the appeal. “The Libyan regime has been firing live ammunition at peaceful demonstrators who have been simply asking for their divinely endowed and internationally recognised human rights.“
The appeal said security forces were firing automatic weapons on large crowds of protesters near the central barracks and security headquarters in Benghazi, and then added:
“We appeal to every Muslim, within the regime or assisting it in anyway, to recognize that the killing of innocent human beings is forbidden by our Creator and by His beloved Prophet of Compassion (peace be upon him), and that whoever commits such crimes-against-humanity, or assists in committing them in any way, shall subject himself to condemnation to God’s wrath and eternal damnation. Human life is sanctified by God Himself, and is protected by Divine Shariah and International Law. Do NOT kill your brothers and sisters. STOP the massacre NOW!”
“We appeal to the faithful and brave Libyan people to help each other in all ways possible and to remain united.”
The Libyan authorities have not allowed foreign journalists into the country since the protests against Gaddafi erupted, and the accounts by the eyewitness in Benghazi and the Muslim scholars could not be independently verified. But both statements, and reports from another resident to Reuters earlier in the day, spoke of a compound from which the security forces fired on protesters.
The Benghazi eyewitness said the security forces had established a 50-metre (yard) buffer perimeter around a “command centre” into which they had retreated, and fired at anyone approaching it. He said people were killed “after protesters tried to break into the command centre but were fired at by security sources from watch towers and locations close to the centre.”