Libyan security forces have killed at least 84 people in a violent response during three days of protests, said the New York-based Human Rights Watch. On its part, the Libyan government shut off Internet early on Saturday.
The protests calling for the departure of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's leader since 1969, have reported mainly in the east of the country. "The Libyan authorities should immediately end attacks on peaceful protesters and protect them from assault by pro-government armed groups," the organization said in its statement.
Most of the deaths were reported in the city of Benghazi, where doctors told the Associated Press Friday that 35 bodies had been admitted, on top of more than a dozen killed the day before.
Internet was also cut off in Libya in the early hours of the morning Saturday, reported the U.S.-based Arbor Networks security company, which detected a total cessation of online traffic in the North African country just after 2 a.m. local time.
At least five cities of eastern Libya have seen protests and clashes in recent days. In one of them, Beyida, a hospital official said Friday that the bodies of at least 23 protesters slain over the past 48 hours were at his facility, which was treating about 500 wounded.
Forces from the military's elite Khamis Brigade moved into Benghazi, Beyida and several other cities, residents said. They were accompanied by militias that seemed to include foreign mercenaries, they added.