Gaddafi urges supporters in Tripoli to "defend" Libya

Libyan leader addresses crowds in capital's Green Square, as troops and militiamen open fire on demonstrators killing at least 4 protesters.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 25, 2011 19:13
2 minute read.
Youth stand on a ruined tank in Al-Katiba, Libya.

Libyan protests_311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 
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Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Friday addressed crowds of his supporters in Tripoli's Green Square, urging them to defend Libya and it's petroleum interests.

As protests against the Libyan leader took place in other parts of the country's capital city, Gaddafi stated that "we are ready to triumph over the enemy" and "the people who don't love me deserve to die."

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Militias loyal to Gaddafi opened fire on protesters streaming out of mosques in the Libyan capital earlier on Friday, demanding the regime's ouster, witnesses said, reporting at least four killed. Across rebellious cities in the east, tens of thousands held rallies in support of the first Tripoli protests in days.

Protesters chanting for Gaddafi's ouster streamed out of mosques near downtown Tripoli's Green Square and other districts after prayers, and they were confronted by troops and militiamen who opened fire, said several witnesses. Gunmen on rooftops in streets near the square shot down on marchers, they said.

The call for regime opponents march from mosques after prayers was the first attempt to hold a major anti-Gaddafi rally in the capital since militiamen launched a bloody crackdown on marchers early in the week that left dozens dead. SMS messages were sent around urging, "Let us make this Friday the Friday of liberation," residents said. The residents and witnesses all spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Gaddafi loyalists have clamped down hard in Tripoli, the center of the eroding territory that the Libyan leader's regime still controls. The uprising that began Feb. 15 has swept over nearly the entire eastern half of the country, breaking cities there out of his regime's hold.

Even in the pocket of northwestern Libya around Tripoli, several cities have also fallen into the hands of the rebellion. Militiamen and Gaddafi forces on Thursday were repelled in trying to take back opposition-held territory in the cities of Zawiya and Misrata, near the capital, in fighting that killed at least 30 people.



Starting Friday morning in Tripoli, pro-Gaddafi militiamen set up heavy security around many mosques in the city, trying to prevent any opposition gatherings. Armed young men with green armbands to show their support of Gadhafi set up checkpoints on many streets, stopping cars and searching them. Tanks and checkpoints lined the road to Tripoli's airport, witnesses said.

As gunfire raged downtown, gunmen opened fire on another march by thousands in Tajoura, a crowded impoverished district on the eastern side of the capital, a participant said. The crowd was moving down a main avenue toward Green Square when a hail of bullets hit, he said.

"We can't see where it is coming from," he said. "They don't want to stop." He said one man next to him was shot in the neck.

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