Militiamen loyal to Muammar Gaddafi clamped down in Tripoli on Wednesday, but cracks in his regime spread elsewhere across the nation as the rebellion controlling much of eastern Libya claimed new gains closer to the capital.
Two pilots let their warplane crash in the desert and parachuted to safety rather than bomb an opposition-held city.
WikiLeaks cables portray Gaddafi as a master manipulator
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The opposition said it had taken over Misrata, which would be the largest city in the western half of the country to fall into its hands.
Clashes broke out over the past two days in the town of Sabratha, west of the capital, where the army and militiamen were trying to put down protesters who overwhelmed security headquarters and government buildings, a news website close to the government reported.
The two air force pilots jumped from parachutes from their Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet and let it crash rather than carry out orders to bomb opposition-held Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, the website Quryna reported, citing an unidentified officer in the air force control room.
One of the pilots – identified by the report as Ali Omar Gaddafi – was from Gaddafi’s tribe, the Gadhadhfa, said Farag al-Maghrabi, a local resident who saw the pilots and the wreckage of the jet, which crashed in a deserted area outside the key oil port of Breqa.
International outrage mounted after Gaddafi went on state TV Tuesday, and in a fist-pounding speech called on his supporters to take to the streets to fight protesters.
Gaddafi’s retaliation has been the harshest in the Arab world to the wave of anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East.
“Gaddafi will do everything – and I mean everything – in order not to lose his grip on power,” said Prof. Yehudit Ronen, a Libya expert in Bar-Ilan University’s Political Science Department and the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University.
“I really don’t see how Gaddafi can continue to hold onto power for a long time, functioning as a head of state, handling the country’s economic and oil affairs – let alone diplomatic relations – after killing so many people, and I assume the number is even greater than we know now,” Ronen told The Jerusalem Post. “So I think the position of the regime is steadily deteriorating and approaching its end.”
Meanwhile, reports emerged on Wednesday of Gaddafi family members trying
to flee the country. Al-Jazeera reported that government sources in
Malta said Gaddafi’s daughter Ayesha was on board the National Libyan
Airlines plane that tried to land in the island country on Thursday, and
that the plane had been refused permission to land.
also reported that a private Libyan jet that was prevented from landing
at Beirut’s airport was carrying the wife of one of Gaddafi’s sons.
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said estimates of 1,000 people killed
in the violence in Libya were “credible,” although he stressed that
information about casualties was incomplete. The New York-based Human
Rights Watch has put the death toll at nearly 300, according to a
A French doctor working in Libya’s eastern city of
Benghazi told Le Point magazine that more than 2,000 people had been
killed in that city alone in the past days of fighting, AFP reported.
The 60-year-old anesthetist, who has been living in the Libyan city for
over a year, said that on the first day of fighting in Benghazi, “our
ambulances counted 75 bodies... 200 on the second [day], then more than
On the third day, he added, “I ran out of morphine and medications.”
exiled Libyan opposition figure claimed that international
organizations following developments in Libya knew of over 10,000 deaths
and around 50,000 wounded in the past week of protests, Israel Radio
Hadi Shalluf, a lawyer who lives in France and is a
counsel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, made the
remarks in an interview on Al-Arabiya television.
as to the death toll in Libya are difficult to ascertain, as foreign
journalists are barred and the regime has cut off almost every method of
communicating with the outside world.
The safety of US citizens
was a prime concern after failed attempts earlier this week to get them
out by plane. But hundreds of Americans safely boarded a 600-passenger
ferry at Tripoli’s As-shahab port on Wednesday for the five-hour journey
Also on Wednesday, Libya’s ex-justice minister was
quoted as telling a Swedish newspaper that Gaddafi personally ordered
the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people in 1988.
proof that Gaddafi gave the order about Lockerbie,” Mustafa Abdel-Jalil
was quoted as saying in an interview with Expressen, a Stockholm-based
Abdel-Jalil, who stepped down as justice minister to
protest the clampdown on antigovernment demonstrations, didn’t detail
Expressen said it interviewed the ex-minister at the local parliament of a large city in Libya.
told the paper that Gaddafi gave the order to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi,
the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over
Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the
“To hide it, he [Gaddafi] did everything in his power to get Megrahi back from Scotland,” Abdel-Jalil was quoted as saying.
was granted a compassionate release from a Scottish prison in August
2009 on the grounds that he was suffering from prostate cancer and would
die soon, but he has defied expectations and remains alive.
appears to have lost the support of several tribes and his own
diplomats, including Libya’s ambassador in Washington, Ali Adjali, and
deputy UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi.
A senior aide to Gaddafi’s son Seif al- Islam has also resigned to protest against the violence.
resigned from the Gaddafi Foundation on Sunday to express dismay
against violence,” Youssef Sawani said in a text message sent to a
He was executive director of the foundation, which has been the younger Gaddafi’s main vehicle for wielding influence.
United States and the European Union vowed on Wednesday to consider
sanctions against Libya, with the EU calling the attacks possible
“crimes against humanity.”
“The continuing brutal and bloody
repression against the Libyan civilian population is revolting,” French
President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement, raising the possibility
of cutting off all economic and business ties between the EU and Libya.
“The international community cannot remain a spectator to these massive
violations of human rights.”
The bloc’s leaders had “agreed in a
statement to take further measures,” an EU diplomat said, adding that
“in diplomatic terms, it means sanctions.”
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney also condemned the attacks.
“The violence is abhorrent, it is completely unacceptable, and the bloodshed must stop,” Carney said.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York on Wednesday
that reports of the Libyan violence constituted “egregious violations”
of international and humanitarian law and that those responsible “must
be held accountable in courts of law.”
He added that he was gravely concerned about the unpredictable and dangerous situation.
“The violence must stop,” he said, “and those responsible for brutally shedding the blood of innocents must be punished.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told The Associated
Press that a no-fly zone may be imposed over Libya to protect civilians
from attacks by government aircraft. The regime’s widespread and
systematic attacks against civilians “may amount to crimes against
humanity,” she said.
Ban did not sanction her call for a no-fly zone when he spoke with reporters.
UN watchdog group said on Wednesday that Gaddafi was keeping his word
about destroying his chemical stockpile for producing mustard gas and
had no weapon to deliver a chemical payload.
Reports from Libya
say fears the regime will use chemical or biological weapons are rampant
among protesters facing Gaddafi’s militias and supporters, and former
British Foreign Secretary David Owen said the West should be concerned
about that possibility.
“We know that this is a person who could
unleash either chemical or biological weapons which he possibly still
has,” Owen said on BBC radio on Wednesday.
Gaddafi “is deeply unstable, and has been for 42 years.”
But the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons indicated the use of chemical weapons was unlikely.
Libya’s delivery systems – 3,300 unloaded aerial bombs – were crushed
by bulldozers in 2004 when Gaddafi agreed to dismantle his weapons of
mass destruction, said the OPCW, based in The Hague.
destroyed nearly 13.5 metric tons of sulfur mustard last year, about 54
percent of its stockpile. It received an extension to eliminate the rest
by May 15, the organization said. Nearly 40 percent of the chemicals
used to make sulfur mustard also have been destroyed since 2005, it
said. Twiceyearly inspections have found no evidence of Libya reviving
the chemical weapons program.
“So far as we know, Libya gave up
the capacity to deliver chemical agents seven years ago,” OPCW spokesman
Michael Luhan told The Associated Press. “And in the last year we’ve
also seen, after some delays, substantial progress toward destroying
their existing stockpile of chemical agent, which is all mustard.”
International Criminal Court on Wednesday said it cannot prosecute
alleged crimes against humanity in Libya without an order from the UN
Security Council or a request from Libya itself.
the world’s first permanent war crimes court said they had no
jurisdiction in Libya because the North African country never signed the
1998 treaty creating the tribunal. Only the Security Council can
instruct the court to intervene against Libya’s will.
Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said “the decision to do justice in Libya should be taken by the Libyan people.”Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.