Libya protesters sack Tripoli TV, set blocks on fire

EU braces for citizen evacuation as death toll mounts


Protesters in the Libyan capital Tripoli sacked state broadcast offices and set branches of the People's Committees that are the mainstay of the regime ablaze overnight, witnesses told AFP on Monday, as the European Union said it would start to evacuate its citizens.

"The headquarters of al-Jamahiriya 2 TV and al-Shababia radio have been sacked," one witness told AFP by telephone on condition of anonymity.

Broadcasts on both channels were interrupted on Sunday evening but resumed on Monday morning.

A government building in the Libyan capital is on fire, a Reuters reporter said on Monday.

"I can see the People's Hall is on fire, there are firefighters there trying to put it out," the reporter said.

The building is where the General People's Congress, or parliament, meets when it is in session in Tripoli.

A number of witnesses said protesters had torched public buildings in the capital overnight, not only People's Committee offices but also police stations.

HRW & Arab League

Human Rights Watch said on Monday that at least 233 people have been killed since Thursday in a crackdown in Libya on protests inspired by the uprisings in Libya's neighbors Egypt and Tunisia.

The head of the Arab League called for an end to violence in Libya on Monday, saying the demands of Arab people for change are legitimate.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said the bloodshed in Libya, where violent unrest has spread to the capital Tripoli, must stop, Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.

"The demands of the Arab peoples for reform, development and change are legitimate and ... the feelings of all the (Arab) nations are joined in this decisive moment in history," MENA cited Moussa as saying.

Citizen evacuation

The European Union is envisaging evacuating its citizens from Libya, particularly from the eastern opposition stronghold of Benghazi, Spain's Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said Monday.

"We are extremely concerned, we are coordinating the possible evacuation of EU citizens coming from Libya especially from Benghazi," Jimenez said on arrival for a second day of talks among EU counterparts on the Arab reform movement.

The change in tone, from pre-planned talks on redrawing aid conditions to the region followed the spread of unrest from the flashpoint second city of Benghazi and gunfire ringing out in the capital, after Libyan leader Moammar Gaddaffi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi warned that "rivers of blood will run through Libya."

An NGO has claimed hundreds of deaths in a violent state crackdown -- with 60 just on Sunday in Benghazi.

However, French European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez was more cautious, saying earlier that "for the moment, there are no direct threats" requiring the repatriation of some 750 French citizens in Libya.

Oil firms

British energy giant BP was meanwhile making preparations to evacuate some of its staff from Libya amid escalating unrest in the country, a spokesman said.

"We're just monitoring the situation and making preparations to evacuate some of the families, and some non-essential staff in the next day or two," said the spokesman.

The company has about 140 staff in the country, about 40 of whom are expatriates, he said.

Some of those being prepared for evacuation were crew making drilling preparations in the west of the country in Ghadames, and as a result these preparations were being suspended.

"We are many years away from production, we haven't drilled a single well there yet," added the spokesman.

Austrian oil and gas group OMV also said none of its operations in Libya had been affected by the unrest there but added it was withdrawing expatriate staff from the country.

"Due to the current situation, we reduce our personnel to the business essential staff. All other OMV expatriates and the families will be withdrawn from the country," company spokeswoman Michaela Huber said in a statement, adding that OMV's operations and production there were unaffected.

Libya is one of OMV's most important oil suppliers and provides around 34,000 barrels per day.

French-run schools

France, meanwhile, said it was closing French-run schools in Libya and urging its citizens there to return home, European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez said on Monday, after anti-government protests spread to the capital Tripoli.

Wauquiez said around 30 French nationals had been brought out of the city of Benghazi, where there has been a fierce crackdown on protests for the past few days, and flown to Tripoli.

"We are trying to organize things so that French schools close now and are encouraging French citizens and families in Tripoli and Libya in general to come back to France," Wauquiez said on Europe 1 radio.

About 750 French people live in Libya, he said, adding: "For the moment there's no direct threat (to them)."

The Libyan uprising is one of series of revolts that have raced like wildfire across the Arab world since December, toppling the long-time rulers of Tunisia and Egypt and threatening entrenched dynasties from Bahrain to Yemen. The West has watched with alarm as long-time allies and old foes have come under threat, appealing for reform and urging restraint.

Libya is Africa's fourth biggest oil exporter, producing 1.6 million barrels of oil a day.

Oil jumped by more than $1 a barrel to $103.5 a barrel on fears the unrest could disrupt supplies.