Deep fissures emerged in Muammar Gaddafi’s autocratic regime on Monday, with
Libyan government officials at home and abroad resigning, air force pilots
defecting and a major government building ablaze after clashes in the capital,
Despite a heavy crackdown, protesters called for another night
of defiance against the Arab world’s longest-serving leader.
Editorial: The UN’s Libya
foreign ministers set to condemn Libya repression
Gadhafi's son warns protests may lead to civil war
soldiers defect to protesters’ side in
government appeared to be preparing a major assault in the capital on Monday
night, in an attempt to crush unrest that had already swept the eastern parts of
the country – leaving Benghazi, Libya’s secondlargest city, in protesters’
control – and was now overwhelming the capital, a city of two million
State TV announced that the military had “stormed the hideouts of
saboteurs,” and called on the public to back the security forces as protesters
called for a new demonstration in the central Green Square and in front of
Gaddafi’s Tripoli residence.
Military warplanes swooped low over the city
in the evening, and snipers took positions on the roofs of buildings around
Tripoli, apparently to stop people from outside the capital from joining the
march, according to Muhammad Abdul-Malek, a London-based opposition activist in
touch with locals.
Tripoli residents gave conflicting reports on Monday,
with some saying they could hear gunfire in the Libyan capital, and a political
activist telling Al-Jazeera warplanes were bombing the city.
know what is going on, all we can hear are occasional gunshots,” one man who
lives near Green Square told Reuters.
“I just hear gunshots
sometimes. I am at home guarding my family because the situation is
unstable. No one knows what will happen,” another resident said.
Muhammad Saleh, who called himself a political activist in Tripoli, said the
aerial bombing had initially targeted a funeral procession.
“What we are
witnessing today is unimaginable. Warplanes and helicopters are indiscriminately
bombing one area after another. There are many, many dead,” Saleh told
Al-Jazeera television in a live broadcast.
Communications into the capital appeared to have been
cut, and mobile phones could not be reached from outside the country. State TV
showed hundreds of Gaddafi supporters rallying in Green Square on Monday
evening, waving pictures of the Libyan leader and palm fronds.
eruption of turmoil in the capital after six days of protests and bloody clashes
in Libya’s eastern cities sharply escalates the challenge to Gaddafi. His
security forces have unleashed the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country
against the wave of protests sweeping the region. At least 233 people have been
killed so far, according to New Yorkbased Human Rights Watch.
in Libya, an OPEC country that is a significant oil supplier to Europe, was
raising international alarm. Oil prices jumped $1.67 to nearly $88 a barrel on
Monday amid investor concern. European nations were eying an evacuation of their
British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting neighboring
Egypt, called the Libyan government’s crackdown “appalling.”
is using the most vicious forms of repression against people who want to see
that country – which is one of the most closed and one of the most autocratic –
make progress,” he told reporters in Cairo.
The heaviest fighting so far
has been in the east. In Benghazi, security forces opened fire on Sunday on
protesters storming police stations and government buildings. But in several
instances, units of the military turned against them and sided with
By Monday, protesters had claimed control of the city,
overrunning its main security headquarters, called the
Celebrating protesters raised the flag of the country’s old
monarchy, toppled in 1969 by a Gaddafi-led military coup, over Benghazi’s main
courthouse and on tanks around the city.
“Gaddafi needs one more push and
he is gone,” said Amal Roqaqie, a lawyer at the Benghazi court. Protesters are
“imposing a new reality...Tripoli will be our capital. We are imposing a
new order and new state, a civil constitutional and with transitional
Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam went on state TV in the early
hours on Monday with a sometimes confused speech of nearly 40 minutes, vowing to
fight and warning that if protests continue, a civil war will erupt in which
Libya’s oil wealth “will be burned.”
“Muammar Gaddafi, our leader, is
leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are with him,” he said. “The armed forces
are with him. Tens of thousands are heading here to be with him. We will fight
until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet,” he said.
al-Islam also promised “historic” reforms in Libya if protests stop, saying on
state TV that he had formed a commission to investigate deaths during the
unrest. Protesters ignored the vague gestures.
Even as he spoke, the
first clashes between protesters and security forces in the heart of Tripoli
were still raging, lasting until dawn.
During the day on Monday, a fire
raged at the People’s Hall, the main center for government gatherings where the
country’s equivalent of a parliament holds its sessions several times a year,
the pro-government news Qureyna website said.
It also reported the first
major sign of discontent in Gaddafi’s government, saying justice minister
Mustafa Abdel- Jalil resigned from his post to protest the “excessive use of
force against unarmed protesters.”
Libya’s UN ambassadors called for
Gaddafi to step down, and there were reports of a string of ambassadors abroad
defecting. Libya’s former ambassador to the Arab League in Cairo, Abdel-Moneim
al-Houni, who a day earlier resigned from his post to side with protesters,
issued a statement demanding that Gaddafi and his commanders and aides be put on
trial for “the mass killings in Libya.
“Gaddafi’s regime is now in the
trash of history because he betrayed his nation and his people,” Houni
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa expressed deep concern on
Monday over the situation in Libya, Reuters reported, urging an immediate halt
to violence and calling for talks instead of confrontation.
“We are faced
with new circumstances in the region, and these circumstances demand dialogue
and not confrontation,” he said. “We are deeply concerned about the current
circumstances in Libya, and we are following the events with deep
A Libyan diplomat in China, Hussein el-Sadek el-Mesrati, told
Al-Jazeera, “I resigned from representing the government of Mussolini and
Two Mirage warplanes from the Libyan Air Force fled a Tripoli
air base and landed on the nearby island nation of Malta, and their pilots – two
colonels – asked for political asylum, Maltese military officials
Tripoli was largely shut down on Monday, with schools, government
offices and most stores closed, except for a few bakeries serving people
hunkered in their homes, residents said. Outside, armed members of
pro-government organizations called “Revolutionary Committees” circulated in the
streets hunting for protesters in Tripoli’s Old City, said one protester, named
Protesters planned new marches on Monday evening in Green Square
and at the leader’s residence.
A similar march the night before sparked
scenes of mayhem in the long heavily secured capital.
On Sunday evening,
protesters from across the city streamed into Green Square, all but taking over
the plaza and surrounding streets in the area between Tripoli’s Ottoman-era Old
City and its Italian-style downtown. That was when the backlash began, with
snipers firing down from rooftops and militiamen attacking the crowds, shooting
and chasing people down side streets.
Gaddafi supporters in pickup trucks
and cars raced through the square, shooting automatic weapons. “They were
driving like mad men searching for someone to kill... It was total chaos,
shooting and shouting,” one 28-year-old protester said.
reported seeing casualties, but the number could not be confirmed. One witness,
named Fathi, said he saw at least two he believed were dead and many more
wounded. After midnight, protesters took over the main Tripoli offices of two
state-run satellite stations, Al- Jamahiriya-1 and Al-Shebabiya, one witness
Fragmentation is a real danger in Libya, a country of deep tribal
divisions and a historic rivalry between Tripoli and Benghazi. The system of
rule created by Gaddafi – the “Jamahiriya,” or “rule by masses” – is highly
decentralized, run by “popular committees” in a complicated hierarchy that means
there is no real center of decision-making except Gaddafi, his sons and their
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi has often been put forward as the
regime’s face of reform and is often cited as a likely successor to his father.
His younger brother Mutassim is the national security adviser, with a strong
role in the military and security forces, and another brother, Khamis, heads the
army’s 32nd Brigade, which according to US diplomats is the best trained and
best equipped force in the military.
The revolt in Benghazi and other
cities in the east illustrated the possibility of the country
In Benghazi, cars honked their horns in celebration and
protesters in the streets chanted “Long live Libya” on Monday after bloody
clashes on Sunday that killed at least 60 people as security forces defending
besieged stations opened fire with heavy caliber machine guns and anti-aircraft
Benghazi’s airport was closed, according to an airport official in
Cairo. A Turkish Airlines flight trying to land in Benghazi to evacuate Turkish
citizens on Monday was turned away, told by ground control to circle over the
airport then to return to Istanbul.
There were fears of chaos as young
men – including regime supporters – seized weapons from the Katiba and other
captured security buildings. “The youths now have arms and that’s worrying,”
said Iman, a doctor at the main hospital.
“We are appealing to the wise
men of every neighborhood to rein in the youths.”
Youth volunteers were
directing traffic and guarding homes and public facilities, said Najla, a lawyer
and university lecturer in Benghazi. She and other locals said police had
disappeared from the streets.
After seizing the Katiba, protesters found
the bodies of 13 uniformed security officers inside who had been handcuffed and
shot in the head, then set on fire, said Hassan, a doctor. He said protesters
believed the 13 had been executed by fellow security men for refusing to attack
Gaddafi was last seen on Friday, when riding atop a truck he
passed through crowds of his own cheering supporters near Tripoli’s Green
Square. He did not speak publicly at the event, and has not been seen
Venezuela’s information minister on Monday denied suggestions that
Gaddafi was headed to the South American country.
Andres Izarra said in
an email sent to The Associated Press that “it’s false” that Gaddafi is flying
He did not elaborate.
Izarra was responding to
inquiries about a statement by Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague, who
said he had seen “some information to suggest” Gaddafi was on his way to
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an ally of
Chavez, who shares Gaddafi’s antagonistic stance toward the
United States, last met with his Libyan counterpart in October during a trip to
Tripoli, where officials signed economic cooperation agreements.
his visit to Libya, Chavez received an honorary degree from Tripoli’s Academy of