Reports have emanated of intense violence in the port city of Benghazi, Libya where security forces have killed many dozens of anti-government demonstrators, including women and children.

Some estimates place the number of dead in Benghazi as high as 200.

According to witnesses, Libyan troops fired machine guns and large-caliber weapons on unarmed protesters. Other reports allege that snipers shot and killed people from roofs and even helicopters.

Hundreds of wounded have poured into local hospitals seeking treatment, reports state.

The disturbances are among the worst in Moammar Qaddafi’s four decade-tenure in power.

Benghazi, along with another city in Libya’s east, al-Bayda, have been the center of anti-government agitation. However, the capital Tripoli appears to be peaceful.

A witness in Benghazi told Reuters that the local government compound was the only part of the city still under military control. The rest of the city is liberated, he said.

The witness added that government buildings and the police station in Benghazi were burned down by protesters.

This is clearly unacceptable and horrifying, said UK Foreign Secretary William Hague: The absence of TV cameras does not mean the attention of the world should not be focused on the actions of the Libyan government.

“We are awaiting a massacre,” a female witness told al-Jazeera. “But we are staying. First we wanted rights. Now we want removal of the regime. We cannot go back anymore