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Libyan Opposition Warns of ‘Bloodbath,’ Calls for Intervention

Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Libyan protests demanding an end to the four-decade rule of Muammar Qaddafi may end in a “bloodbath” unless the international community intervenes, a leading member of an exiled opposition group said.

Libyan special security forces are preparing attacks on Benghazi and other cities in the eastern part of the country that have been taken over by protesters, Mohammed Ali Abdallah, deputy secretary general of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“We are expecting a massacre,” Ali Abdallah said. “We are sending an SOS to the international community to step in.” Without international efforts to hold back Qaddafi, “there were be a bloodbath in Libya in the next 48 hours.”

Demonstrators entered their fourth day of rallies against the regime, which has responded with “brutality and violence,” Ali Abdallah said. Government forces have killed at least 84 people in the unrest, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on its website.

The government has refused requests by doctors to replenish medical supplies to treat the wounded, he said.

Demonstrators took over most of the major cities east of Benghazi, where some army officers and police sided with the people in the street, Ali Abdallah said. Protest camps were set up in Benghazi and Beida, he said. Pockets of protest in and near Tripoli, the capital, were quickly quashed.

Change “is inevitable,” he said. “It is very close.”

The demonstrators are calling for the creation of a constitutional democracy and an end to a ban on political parties. Inspired by the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, protesters in Libya have organized rallies on the Internet and through social media sites such as Facebook.

“Unlike those two countries, the protests in Libya aren’t necessarily a youth movement,” Ali Abdallah said. “There are lots of lawyers, doctors, judges taking part. This is unique to the Libyan movement.”

The NFSL was founded with no specific ideology by former diplomats and Libyan businessmen, Ali Abdallah said. At first underground, the movement went public in 1981, he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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