TRIPOLI, Libya, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Scorn fell on Tripoli after witnesses reported Thursday that snipers killed several anti-government protesters in the Libyan capital.
Rare anti-government protests continued in Libya as waves of unrest sweep across North Africa and the Middle East.
Witnesses said Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi ordered helicopter gunships and snipers to fire on protesters, leaving as many as 19 people dead, The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London reports.
Opposition Web sites, the Telegraph adds, report that snipers were patrolling rooftops in al-Baida where protesters burned police stations and defaced posters of Gadhafi, who has ruled over Libya for more than 40 years.
Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that Gadhafi was responding to political unrest "in exactly the wrong way."
"Col. Moammar Gadhafi should learn from his former neighbors that stability has to include respect for peaceful protest," he added.
The Libyan government has bussed in supporters to Tripoli to stage counter demonstrations in support of Gadhafi.
Anti-government demonstrations were the first display of defiance directly challenging Gadhafi's four-decade regime.