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Libya’s Kadhafi under siege as cities overrun

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, February 21, 2011 16:12 EDT
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TRIPOLI – Protesters on Monday overran several Libyan cities and Tripoli was rocked by violence some residents said was a “massacre,” as the pillars of Moamer Kadhafi’s hardline four-decade rule began to crumble.

A suggestion in Brussels by British Foreign Secretary William Hague that Kadhafi may have left the country for Venezuela was swiftly denied by Caracas, home to the embattled Libyan leader’s firebrand ally President Hugo Chavez.

Tripoli also denied it, with Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kayem telling state television: “The leader is in Libya, as are all the government officials.”

The uprising spread to the capital itself, with gunfire rattling Tripoli, where protesters attacked police stations and the offices of the state broadcaster, Kadhafi’s mouthpiece, and set government buildings ablaze.

Residents of two districts in Tripoli told AFP in Cairo by telephone there had been “a massacre.”

“What happened today in Tajura was a massacre,” one said. “Armed men were firing indiscriminately. There are even women among the dead.”

Another witness in Fashlum said helicopters had landed what he called African mercenaries who opened fire on anyone in the street, causing a large number of deaths.

Two Libyan fighter pilots — both colonels — flew their single-seater Mirage F1 jets to Malta and said they had defected after being ordered to attack protesters in Benghazi, Maltese military and official sources told AFP.

Malta is the closest European state to Libya, just 340 kilometres (211 miles) north of its coastline.

Italy put all military air bases on maximum alert after the fighters landed, ANSA news agency reported, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he was “alarmed” by clashes in the former Italian colony.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Tripoli to stop the deadly crackdown, saying in a statement: “I am shocked by the indiscriminate use of violence against peaceful protesters in Libya.”

Several Libyan diplomats at the United Nations joined calls for Kadhafi to quit, US media reported, with deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi telling CNN Kadhafi has “declared war” on the Libyan people and is committing “genocide.”

In an interview with BBC World, Dabbashi added: “I think it is the end of Colonel Kadhafi, it is a matter of days, whether he steps down or the Libyan people will get rid of him anyway.

Benghazi, Libya’s second city and an opposition stronghold in the east, fell to anti-regime demonstrators after military units deserted, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) reported earlier.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon told Kadhafi in a phone call that the violence “must stop immediately” and called for a broad-based dialogue, a UN spokesman said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also condemned the “unacceptable use of force” and called for an “immediate halt” to the violence.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, on a surprise visit to Libya’s eastern neighbour Egypt, where long-time president Hosni Mubarak was swept out on February 11 by a tide of people power, also slammed the violence.

“The violence, the brutality, that has got to stop, that is completely unacceptable,” he told Britain’s ITV news.

The 27-nation European Union urged all sides to show restraint.

Britain’s Hague said earlier Kadhafi may be en route to Venezuela, citing “information that suggests he is on his way,” but a Venezuelan official who asked not to be identified retorted: “It’s not true.”

US President Barack Obama was “considering all appropriate actions” as Washington ordered all non-essential staff out of Libya and warned Americans to avoid travel to the north African country.

Libyan state television said security forces were battling “dens of terrorists” in a sweep that has killed a number of people, without specifying where or who was being targeted.

State television reported that Kadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, had set up a commission to probe “the sad events,” and that it would include “members of Libyan and foreign rights organisations.”

He had already appeared on television early Monday to warn of looming civil conflict.

“Libya is at a crossroads. If we do not agree today on reforms… rivers of blood will run through Libya,” he said.

“We will take up arms… we will fight to the last bullet. We will destroy seditious elements. If everybody is armed, it is civil war, we will kill each other… Libya is not Egypt, it is not Tunisia.”

IFHR head Souhayr Belhassen said protesters controlled Benghazi, Sirte, Tobruk in the east, as well as Misrata, Khoms, Tarhounah, Zenten, Al-Zawiya and Zouara, closer to the capital.

The IFHR said that besides soldiers and diplomats, other senior regime officials had also defected, demanding that Kadhafi step down after more than 41 years in power.

It said the protests had resulted in up to 400 deaths. Human Rights Watch earlier cited a death toll of 233.

Heavy gunfire erupted in central Tripoli and other city areas for the first time since the uprising began in eastern Libya, witnesses and an AFP journalist reported.

“It’s definitely the end of the regime. This has never happened in Libya before. We are praying that it ends quickly,” one resident of east Tripoli told AFP in Cairo by telephone.

Libya’s justice minister, Mustapha Abdeljalil, resigned in objection to “the excessive use of force” against demonstrators, the Quryna newspaper website reported.

In Cairo, Libya’s Arab League envoy said he too had stepped down to “join the revolution.” Tripoli’s ambassador to Delhi also quit, as did a diplomat in Beijing, Al-Jazeera television reported.

Oil prices soared above $105 per barrel on the turmoil, and the Fitch agency downgraded Libya’s debt rating a notch from BBB+ to BBB.

British and French energy giants BP and Total were also evacuating some staff from Libya, which holds Africa’s biggest oil reserves, as other European governments and firms also scrambled to evacuate their citizens.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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  • Anonymous

    So long, Moamer. Looks like you are next!

  • Sandi

    “A suggestion in Brussels by British Foreign Secretary William Hague that Kadhafi may have left the country for Venezuela “. . . .

    Oh, I see. Trying to use the uprising in Libya to demonize Venezuela’s success with the Bolivarian Revolution? Geez. . . how far will these guys go?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VKTCM2DCWPVUXEKN5G5QNTBJNQ Dustin A

    “Two Libyan fighter pilots — both colonels — flew their single-seater Mirage F1 jets to Malta and said they had defected after being ordered to attack protesters in Benghazi…”

    And here in the USA head of police organizations have already vowed to “do their job” if asked to fire on protesters in Wisconsin. It seems Libyans have a greater understanding of the Social Contract than citizens here; sad really…

  • Anonymous

    Wow, how did that happen so fast.
    I thought Khadfi’s army units were firing machine guns and mortars at protesters and firing at them from helicopter gunships.
    I thought the protesters were toast.
    The world can sure change pretty quickly these days.

  • Anonymous

    Where is Obama in all this? Where is Hillary Clinton? Their silence equals approval. You are either with the revolution, or you’re against it.

    “Libya is not Egypt, it is not Tunisia.”

    Oh, but it is. And just like every other murderous, corrupt regime, Libya will fall and you will be cast into the dustbin of history like so much trash.

  • Anonymous

    This is the people’s revolution and no regime in the World can stop it.

  • NadePaulKuciGravMcKi

    Time for Muammar al-Gaddafi to release his State Secrets File.

  • Anonymous

    It is sad. You really can’t trust the police; I just hope the National Guard will refuse to fire on the protesters if ordered to do so.

    I think the government is really reaching here…expecting the military to take their side in this. Here’s a bunch of working class kids – most of them forced into the service due to economic reasons – and now they’re being asked to control and possibly kill their fellow citizens who are fighting to protect union rights in this country. How many of them come from a blue collar background? I would imagine every one of them.

    Most of them are fully aware of the economic conditions in this country and also realize that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are based on lies. I doubt if they take the governors side. If anything, I could see them using their weapons to protect the protesters.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VKTCM2DCWPVUXEKN5G5QNTBJNQ Dustin A

    Problem is right now there is no message telling them that. All they know is what talking-heads on TV tell them, which is doctored information (i.e. propaganda) promising them these protests are overblown and everything will get back to normal one day.

    But eventually this wildfire won’t be contained and these people my age (18-30) that are broke, forced into militaristic servitude, and have no other option, will finally realize they hold the power for us… not those parading charade reigns.

  • Phil E. Drifter
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Zentrails/100001475536421 Bob Zentrails

    Say goodnight, Gracie.

  • Sandi

    That’s not true! Since the invention of the internet we have been able to publicize this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyzoNCJvy4c

    That, then, leads us to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zf2K4-BQYAI

    Never forget that the people the “elite” rely on to defend them comes from the poor and under-privileged masses. No matter how well-researched the mind-control, they will never completely forget where they came from. So, if you are a protester, take every moment you have to remind them that they are really just us. Talk to them as the equals that they are.

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    I wish some enterprising group would covertly airlift in some SAMs so the opposition could level the playing field.

  • TheDevilCanDance

    One by one the West is loosing its “leverage” on Africa & the Arab world

  • Anonymous

    Never had them as the “allies”. Only their puppet dictators. No wonder they want to kill Americans and terrorize. Imagine if China would put up a puppet dictator in USA.

  • Anonymous

    You’re s-o- close.

    Overtake that Libyan television building in Tripoli!!!

    You can do it!!! You’re so close to driving out this bearded authoritarian bastard.

    It will be even more astounding than the Egyptians historic overthrow. Shut down his last hope by commandeering his media center.

  • TheDevilCanDance

    The Chinese have their men in Washington. Don`t forget China is the US favorite trade partner….Ironical that the bedrock of anti Communism (the US) is the best partner of the world only remaining Communist dictatorship :)

  • risa bear

    As I remember, the Ohio national guard has experience with this kind of thing.

    I did that “talking with the police” thing during demonstrations in the Sixties; they just grinned and beat us up anyway. I watched one fellow protester actually run over by a police motorcycle.

    No; if your troopers have been watching Fux News, and many troopers do, the chances of their siding with the governor can be distressingly high.

    This changes relatively little over time; my dad was on union lines in the early Fifties and there were people shot and killed by the police.

    When things get to a certain point, people will have to do as they are doing in Libya: walk toward the guns, counting their INDIVIDUAL lives as expendable.

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