CAIRO – The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says protesters have seized control of some military bases and tanks.
Appearing on Libyan state television Sunday night, Seif al-Islam warned of civil war in the country that would burn its oil wealth.
He also acknowledged that the army made mistakes during protests because troops were not prepared to battle demonstrators.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
CAIRO (AP) — Security forces loyal to Libya's Moammar Gadhafi unleashed heavy gunfire Sunday on thousands marching in a rebellious eastern city, cutting down mourners trying to bury victims in a bloody cycle of violence that has killed more than 200 people in the fiercest crackdown on the uprisings in the Arab world.
Protests were even reported to have spread to downtown Tripoli and a coastal city only about 45 miles (about 70 kilometers) to the west of the capital. In Benghazi, site of the funeral clashes, pro-Gadhafi forces were chased from a presidential compound by other troops sympathetic to the anti-government demonstrators, a witness said.
Western countries expressed concern at the rising violence against demonstrators in oil-rich Libya, which is sandwiched between friendly neighbors Egypt and Tunisia — where long-serving leaders were successfully toppled in recent weeks. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he told Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, that the country must embark on "dialogue and implement reforms," the Foreign Office said.
In the first-known defection from Gadhafi's regime, Libya's representative to the Arab League said he resigned his post to protest his government's decision to fire on defiant demonstrators in the second-largest city of Benghazi. Also, a major tribe in Libya was reported to have turned against Gadhafi.
"We are not afraid. We won't turn back," said a teacher who identified herself only as Omneya. She said she was marching at the end of the funeral procession on a highway beside the Mediterranean and heard gunfire from two kilometers (just over a mile) away. "If we don't continue, this vile man would crush us with his tanks and bulldozers. If we don't, we won't ever be free."
Omneya, who spoke by telephone, said one of those being buried was a toddler killed Saturday.
Eyewitness reports trickling out of the isolated country where the Internet has been largely shut down and journalists cannot work freely suggested that protesters were fighting back more forcefully against the Middle East's longest-serving leader.
Benghazi is "in a state of war," said Mohamed Abdul-Rahman, a 42-year old merchant, who described how some protesters burned a police headquarters.
Protesters throwing firebombs and stones, got on bulldozers and tried to storm a presidential compound from which troops had fired on the marchers, who included those carrying coffins of the dead from Saturday's unrest in the eastern city, a witness said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears of reprisal. The attempt was repulsed by armed forces in the compound, according to the witness and the official JANA news agency, which said a number of attackers and solders were killed.
"Everything is behind that (Gadhafi) compound, hidden behind wall after wall. The doors open and close and soldiers and tanks just come out, always as a surprise, and mostly after dark," resident Jamal Eddin Mohammed told The Associated Press by telephone.