Amid a near black out on news in Libya, and a ban preventing foreign journalists from entering, fragmentary reports suggested death toll rising into the dozens as anti-regime protesters clashed with authorities in several cities.
A Libyan newspaper says that at least 27 people have been killed in two cities, the Dubai-based al-Arabiya reports.
The website for the publication, Oea--said to be associated with leader Moammar Gadhafi’s son--says anti-regime protests left 20 dead in the city of Benghazi and seven fatalities in Darnah.
Human Rights Watch had earlier said the death toll in Libya had reached 24. AFP compiled fatalaties from various sources, reporting a total of 41.
After a fierce attack by armed men and special forces in Benghazi on Thursday, protesters set fire to the headquarters of a local radio station on Friday, Agence France Presse reported.
Amid the crackdown, the semi-independent Quryna newspaper reported that the government would replace many state executives and decentralise and restructure the government. The report could not be immediately confirmed, but could suggest some effort to calm the unrest.
But offering a contradictory message in a pro-Gadhafi website, the regime on Friday vowed to snuff any further attempt to challenge the Libyan leader, after the opposition "day of anger" turned into a bloodbath.
"The response of the people and the Revolutionary Forces to any adventure by these small groups will be sharp and violent," the Revolutionary Committees said on the website of their newspaper.
The committees are a key instrument of power for Gadhafi's regime.
"The power of the people, the Jamahiriya (government by the masses), the Revolution and the leader are all red lines, and anyone who tries to cross or approach them will be committing suicide and playing with fire," the statement continued.
Reports from other cities suggested spreading unrest: In the inland city of Zentan, protesters set fire to local premises of the Revolutionary Committees offices and the security forces, the Libyan newspaper Quryna reported on its website. There were also protests and clashes reported in al-Bayda city
As UK newspaper The Guardian reported Friday: “There was a blizzard of rumors and claims about killings by mercenaries and defections by members of the security forces.”
It said prisoners were reported to have escaped en masse from al-Jadida jail in the capital, Tripoli, which had previously been calm.
The Guardian also quoted diplomats who described events in Libya as "a rapidly deteriorating situation."
The foreign reporters who are based in Libya operate under government restrictions on travel, so verifying reports from outside of Tripoli is difficult.