Muammar Gaddafi pledged to fight until his “last drop of blood” and ordered
supporters to take to Libya’s streets against protesters in a furious,
fistpounding speech Tuesday evening on Libyan state television.
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rambling, hour-long address followed two nights of bloodshed in the capital,
Tripoli, as the dictator’s forces tried to crush the uprising that has
fragmented his decades-long regime.
Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes
al-Abidi announced his defection and support for the “February 17 revolution,”
Al- Jazeera reported on Tuesday night.
The channel aired amateur video
footage that showed Abidi at his desk reading a statement that also called on
the Libyan army to join the people and support their “legitimate
Shortly afterward, the Arab League suspended Libya’s
participation in its council meetings, citing the government’s crackdown on
The league “condemns crimes against the current peaceful
popular protests and demonstrations in several Libyan cities,” Secretary-General
Amr Moussa told reporters in Cairo, Bloomberg News reported.
He said the
security forces’ use of live rounds, heavy weapons and foreign mercenaries is a
“grave breach of human rights.”
The Obama administration condemned the
“appalling” violence used by Libyan authorities against protesters.
violence is completely unacceptable,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
US officials renewed demands for Gaddafi’s government to talk with
opponents, and cast the political unrest there as part of a regional uprising
against political and economic stagnation that must be addressed by the Arab
The UN Security Council convened late on Tuesday in
emergency session for “consultations” on the crisis.
Gaddafi’s call to
his supporters portended a new round of mayhem in the capital of 2 million
people. The night before, residents described a rampage by pro-regime
militiamen, who shot on sight anyone found in the streets and opened fire from
speeding vehicles at people watching from windows of their homes.
Tuesday morning, bodies still lay strewn in some streets.
celebration were heard after Gaddafi’s speech, aired on state TV and on a screen
to several hundred supporters in Tripoli’s central Green Square, witnesses
Swathed in brown robes and a turban, the country’s leader for
nearly 42 years spoke from behind a podium in the entrance of his bombed-out
Tripoli residence that was hit by US air strikes in the 1980s and left
unrepaired as a symbol of defiance.
At times the camera panned back to
show the outside of the building and its towering monument of a gold-colored
fist crushing an American fighter jet.
But the view also gave a surreal
image of Gaddafi, shouting and waving his arms wildly, alone in a broken-down
lobby with no audience, surrounded by torn tiles dangling from the ceiling,
shattered concrete pillars and bare plumbing pipes.
“Libya wants glory,
Libya wants to be at the pinnacle, at the pinnacle of the world,” he proclaimed,
pounding his fist on the podium.“I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents... I will die as a martyr at the
end,” he said, vowing to fight “to my last drop of blood.”
depicted the protesters as misguided youths, who had been given drugs and money
by a “small, sick group” to attack police and government buildings. He said the
uprising was fomented by “bearded men” – a reference to Islamic fundamentalists
– and Libyans living abroad. He called on supporters to take to the streets to
“You men and women who love Gaddafi... Get out of your
homes and fill the streets,” he said. “Leave your homes and attack them in their
“The police cordons will be lifted, go out and fight them,” he
said, urging youth to form local committees across the country “for the defense
of the revolution and the defense of Gaddafi.”
forward!” the 68-year-old barked at the speech’s conclusion, pumping both fists
in the air as he stormed away from the podium.
He was kissed by about a
dozen supporters, some in security force uniforms, then climbed into a golf
cart-like vehicle and puttered away.
The turmoil in the capital escalates
a week of protests and bloody clashes in Libya’s eastern cities that have
shattered Gaddafi’s grip on the nation.
Many cities in the east appeared
to be under the control of protesters after units of Gaddafi’s army defected.
Protesters in the east claimed to hold several oil fields and facilities and
said they were protecting them against damage or vandalism.
has been hit by a string of defections by ambassadors abroad, including its UN
delegation, and a few officials at home.
In response, Gaddafi’s security
forces have unleashed the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country against the
wave of protests sweeping the region.
At least 62 people were killed in
violence in Tripoli since Sunday, according to the New Yorkbased Human Rights
Watch, but it cautioned that that figure came from only two
That comes on top of at least 233 people killed across the
country so far in the uprising, counted by the group from hospitals around the
Tripoli streets were largely empty on Tuesday, except for people
venturing out for food, wary of militia attacks.
Reuters reported that
the United States said it had been unable to move any of its nonessential
diplomats and embassy family members out of Libya on Tuesday, but that it
expected them to depart in coming days.
China also expressed concern
about the unrest, urging Tripoli to investigate incidents against Chinese
companies and citizens in the country. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told
reporters at a regular press briefing that Beijing hopes Libya can “restore
social stability and normality,” Reuters reported.
of the Organization of the Islamic Conference weighed in, calling on Gaddafi’s
regime to stop “targeting innocent Libyan people.”
strongly criticized the Libyan government’s use of excessive force against
civilians in a statement released by the organization. He said the nation’s
authorities should resolve demonstrators’ demands through “peaceful means and
serious dialogue” rather than bloodshed.
The OIC is an umbrella
organization representing 57 Muslim nations.
One of the heaviest
battlegrounds in Libya has been Tripoli’s impoverished, densely populated
district of Fashloum.
There, militiamen shot any “moving human being”
with live ammunition, including ambulances, so wounded were left in the streets
to die, one resident said.
He said that as he fled the neighborhood on
Monday night, he ran across a group of militiamen, including foreign
“The Libyans [among them] warned me to leave and showed me
bodies of the dead and told me: ‘We were given orders to shoot anybody who moves
in the place,’” the resident said.
Another man, in his 50s, said
residents of his neighborhood were piling up roadblocks of concrete, bricks and
wood to try to slow militiamen. He said he had seen several streets with funeral
tents mourning the dead. He described spending the night before barricaded in
his home, blankets over the windows, as militiamen rampaged in the streets until
Buses unloaded militia fighters – Libyans and foreigners – in
several neighborhoods. Others sped in vehicles with guns mounted on the top,
opening fire, including at people watching from windows, he said.
of two different families, one family had a four-yearold who was shot and killed
on a balcony in the eastern part of the city, and another lady on the balcony
was shot in the head,” he said.
He, like other residents contacted by The
Associated Press, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of
Militias – which many witnesses say include fighters who
appear to be from sub-Saharan Africa – have taken the forefront in the crackdown
in Tripoli, in part because Gaddafi has traditionally kept his military and
other armed forces weakened to prevent any challenge.
The week of
upheaval in Libya has weakened – if not broken for now – the control of
Gaddafi’s regime in parts of the east.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed
Aboul Gheit said on Tuesday that runways at Benghazi airport have been destroyed
and passenger planes cannot land there. He told Egyptians in Libya to, if
possible, remain in their houses and secure themselves with enough food and
water and to stay off the streets.
“The Benghazi airport runways have
been destroyed. It is not possible for EgyptAir flights or any other flights to
land in that airport,” Aboul Gheit told reporters.
Up to 1.5 million
Egyptians live in Libya. Egypt on Tuesday was still awaiting permission from
Libyan air traffic authorities to land its planes at Tripoli
Protesters claim to control a string of cities across just under
half of Libya’s 1,600-kilometerlong Mediterranean coast, from the Egyptian
border in the east to the city of Ajdabiya, an important site in the oil fields
of central Libya, said Tawfiq al-Shahbi, a protest organizer in the eastern city
of Tobruk. He said he had visited the crossing station into Egypt and that
border guards had fled.
In Tobruk and Benghazi, protesters were raising
the pre- Gaddafi flag of Libya’s monarchy on public buildings, he and other
Protesters and local tribesmen were protecting several
oil fields and facilities around Ajdabiya, said Ahmed al-Zawi, a resident there.
They had also organized watch groups to guard streets and entrances to the city,
Residents are also guarding one of Libya’s main oil export
ports, Zuweita, and the pipelines feeding into it, he said. The pipelines are
off and several tankers in the port left empty, said Zawi, who said he visited
Zuweita on Tuesday morning.
In Benghazi, protesters over the weekend
overran police stations and security headquarters, taking control of the streets
with the help of army units that broke away and sided with them.
residents, however, remained in fear of a regime backlash. One doctor in the
city said Tuesday many spent the night outside their homes, hearing rumors that
air strikes and artillery assaults were imminent.
“We know that although
we are in control of the city, Gaddafi loyalists are still here hiding and they
can do anything anytime,” he said.
Gaddafi appeared briefly on TV early
on Tuesday to dispel rumors that he had fled. Sitting in a car in front of what
appeared to be his residence and holding an umbrella out of the passenger side
door, he told an interviewer that he had wanted to go to the capital’s Green
Square to talk to his supporters gathered there, but the rain stopped
“I am here to show that I am in Tripoli and not in
Don’t believe those misleading dog stations,” Gaddafi said,
referring to the media reports that he had left the country for the South
American socialist state run by his friend Hugo Chavez. The video clip and
comments lasted less than a minute.
But Tuesday evening’s speech lasted
well over a half hour. During it, Gaddafi recounting his days as a young
revolutionary leader who “liberated” Libya – a reference to the 1969 military
coup that brought him to power – and his defiance against US air
He insisted that since he has no official title, he cannot
resign – Gaddafi is referred to as the “brother leader,” but is not
He said he had not ordered police to use any force used
against protesters – that his supporters had come out voluntarily to defend
“I haven’t ordered a single bullet fired,” he said, warning that if
he does, “everything will burn.”
Gaddafi said that if protests didn’t
end, he would stage a “holy march” with millions of supporters to cleanse Libya.
He demanded that protesters in Benghazi hand over weapons taken from captured
police stations and military bases, warning of separatism and civil
“No one allows his country to be a joke or lets a mad man separate a
part of it,” he declared.