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Hundreds of Libyan protesters took to the streets Wednesday in the country’s second largest city to demand the government’s ouster in the first sign that the region’s unrest has spread to the Arab nation in North Africa.
Witnesses say protesters in the port city of Benghazi chanted slogans demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi. The crowds, however, did not appear to direct their anger at Moammar Gadhafi, who has ruled the nation for more than 40 years.
As in the uprisings that toppled longtime autocratic rulers in Egypt and Tunisia — on opposite sides of Libya — Libyan activists are using social networking websites like Facebook to call for a day of protests on Thursday.
Libya’s official news agency did not carry any word of Wednesday’s anti-government protests. It reported only that supporters of Gadhafi were demonstrating in the capital, Tripoli, and in Benghazi and other cities.
On Monday, several opposition groups in exile called for the overthrow of Gadhafi and for a peaceful transition of power in Libya.
“Col. Gadhafi and all his family members should relinquish powers,” the groups said in a statement.
Gadhafi came to power 1969 through a military coup and since then he has been ruling the country with no parliament or constitution. Although Gadhafi claims he is only a revolutionary leader with no official status, he holds absolute power.
The opposition groups say that in practice he has direct control of the country’s politics and its military and security forces.
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