U.N.: Libyan Crackdown 'Escalating Alarmingly'

Libya's bloody crackdown on protesters is "escalating alarmingly" and "thousands may have been killed or injured," the world's top human rights official said Friday, as strongman Moammar Gadhafi vied to retain power from his stronghold in the capital of Tripoli.

"Although reports are still patchy and hard to verify, one thing is painfully clear: in (a) brazen and continuing breach of international law, the crackdown in Libya of peaceful demonstrations is escalating alarmingly with reported mass killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of protesters," said Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

Global leaders planned to discuss the Libyan crisis in emergency sessions Friday as all eyes fell on Tripoli, where Gadhafi, defiant as ever, fiercely fought to preserve his hold.

Several witnesses reported intense clashes in various parts of the city between security forces and protesters after Friday afternoon prayers.

Several people were injured amid reports of sniper and artillery fire in Tripoli, said Mohammed Ali Abdallah of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which opposes Gadhafi's regime. He based his account on reports that he said he received from witnesses in the city.