Fears rose of a "massacre" in Libya as protests spread and a rights watchdog said the death toll topped 100.
Libya's the iron-fisted response to the protests against the more than 40 years of Moamer Kadhafi's rule has left at least 104 people dead since Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said.
Despite what Britain has called a "horrifying crackdown", demonstrators again braved the streets of Libya's second city Benghazi on Sunday.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera television on a patchy telephone line, a Benghazi resident warned that the flashpoint city was turning into a scene of "out of sight massacres".
"It feels like an open warzone between protesters and security forces," said Fathi Terbeel, a protest organiser. "Our numbers show that more than 200 people have been killed... God have mercy on them."
Libyan security forces also clashed with anti-regime demonstrators in the city of Misrata on Sunday, as protests spread closer to the capital, witnesses told AFP by telephone.
Demonstrators were out on the streets of Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Tripoli, in a show of support for residents of Benghazi who have endured the brunt of a violent crackdown in the restive east.
The witnesses said Libyan security forces, backed by "African mercenaries," had been "shooting without discrimination" into the crowds, causing an unknown number of casualties.
A senior Libyan official told AFP a group of "Islamist extremists" had taken hostage members of the security forces and civilians in the east of the country.
"A group of Islamist extremists ... is holding hostage security elements and civilians, threatening to execute them unless a siege by security forces is lifted" in the city of Al-Baida, the official said, asking not to be named.
Austria announced Sunday it was sending a C-130 Hercules military plane to Malta to evacuate Austrian and European citizens from Libya and other Arab countries if necessary.
"The escalation of the situation in Libya has made preparations for the evacuation of Austrian as well as European Union nationals necessary," Defence Minister Norbert Darabos said.