Sunday, February 20, 2011

Libya News Bulletin: Seif al-Islam Speaks on National Television Warning of Civil War Amid Rebellion in the East

Libyan uprising a 'foreign plot': Kadhafi son


CAIRO — Saif al-Islam Kadhafi, the son of strongman Moamer Kadhafi, said Monday that Libya was on the verge of civil war and branded the unprecedented protests against his father's rule a foreign plot.

Blaming Arab and African expatriates of fomenting unrest in the country, he said the violence was aimed at installing Islamist rule, in a speech on television.

"At this moment there are tanks being driven by civilians in Benghazi," Libya's second city and an epicentre of the unprecedented protests against Moamer Kadhafi's iron-fisted rule for nearly 42 years.

"We have arms, the military has arms and the forces which want to destroy Libya have arms," he said.

Kadhafi, speaking in Arabic, also pledged a new constitution and new liberal laws saying the north African country was at a crossroads.

In the tough-talking, finger-wagging speech, Kadhafi's son blamed foreign media of inflating the death toll, which he repeatedly put at 84, and warned that any uprising would be ruthlessly suppressed.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 173 people have died in Libya since the anti-regime protests broke out on February 15 after similar uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt which ended the long rule of two veteran leaders.

"Libya is not Egypt, it is not Tunisia. There are no political parties in Libya," he said.

"We will take up arms... we will fight to the last bullet," he said. "We will destroy seditious elements.

"If everybody is armed, it is civil war, we will kill each other."

Kadhafi said his father would lead the fight against the protesters, adding: and "we will win."

Tripoli residents late Sunday reported intense gunfire in the heart of the capital and several quarters of the city.

"We are hearing bursts of gunfire everywhere and they are approaching the city centre," a resident of the Al-Andalous quarter told AFP.

Another resident reported gunfire in the Mizran area, near downtown Tripoli.

A local of the working-class Gurgi area said security forces fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters.

"There are demonstrations. We are hearing anti-regime slogans and firing. Our house is filled with tear gas," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Saif al-Islam Kadhafi also underscored Libya's vast oil wealth and issued a trenchant warning to foreign companies.

"We have one resource that we live on and that is petrol," he said in an English translation of his speech.

"All the foreign companies will be forced to leave the country," he said.

"Separation in Libya will take it back to where it was 60 or 70 years ago."

Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi told EU ambassadors in Tripoli, without elaborating, that there are "very precise plans, destructive and terrorist, that want Libya to become a base for terrorism."

And he said Libya has the "right to take all measures to preserve its unity, stability and people, and to assure the protection of its riches and preserve its relations with other countries," state news agency Jana reported.

Mahmudi also lashed out at "foreign news media," whose reports he said were a "mixture, without distinction, of reality and lies."

But in a significant crack in the regime's public face, Libya's envoy to the Arab League announced he was "joining the revolution."

"I have submitted my resignation in protest against the acts of repression and violence against demonstrators (in Libya) and I am joining the ranks of the revolution," Abdel Moneim al-Honi said.

Ironically, Libya currently holds the rotating presidency of the 22-member Arab League.

Earlier, witnesses told AFP by telephone that security forces clashed with anti-regime protesters in the Mediterranean city of Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Tripoli.

The witnesses said security forces, backed by "African mercenaries," fired on crowds "without discrimination."

In the eastern city of Benghazi, which has borne the brunt of the violence, protests continued, lawyer Mohammed al-Mughrabi told AFP by telephone.

"Lawyers are demonstrating outside the Northern Benghazi court; there are thousands here. We have called it Tahrir Square Two," he said of the Cairo square central to protests that brought down Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Separately, others are "storming the garrison" and "taking fire from snipers," Mughrabi said, without elaborating.

Gaddafi's son promises reforms

Appearing on Libyan state television, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi said his father is in the country and backed by the army

Last Modified: 20 Feb 2011 23:53 GMT

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is confronting the most serious challenge to his rule in 42 years

A son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has promised a programme of reforms after bloody protests against his father's rule reached the capital Tripoli.

Appearing on Libyan state television early on Monday morning, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi said his father is in the country and backed by the army. "We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet."

Seif al-Islam said his father was leading the fight, although he added that some military bases, tanks and weapons had been seized.

"We are not Tunisia and Egypt," the younger Gaddafi said, referring to the successful uprisings that toppled longtime regimes in Libya's neighbours.

He acknowledged that the army made mistakes during protests because it was not trained to deal with demonstrators but added that the number of dead had been exaggerated, giving a death toll of 84.

Human Rights Watch put the number at 174 through Saturday, and doctors in the eastern city of Benghazi said more than 200 have died since the protests began.

The younger Gaddafi offered to put forward reforms within days that he described as a "historic national initiative" and said the regime was willing to remove some restrictions and begin discussions for a constitution. He offered to change a number of laws, including those covering the media and the penal code.

Saif al-Islam also hit out at those behind the violence. He said protests against his father's rule, which have been concentrated in the east of the country, threatened to sink Libya into civil war and split the country up into several small states.

He said the General People's Congress, Libya's equivalent of a parliament, would convene on Monday to discuss a "clear" reform agenda, while the government would also raise wages.

After Seif al-Islam's address, Najla Abdurahman, a Libyan dissident, told Al Jazeera: "He's threatening Libya and trying to play up on their fears. I don't think anyone in Libya who isn't close to the Gaddafi regime would buy anything he said.

"And even if there is any truth to what he said, I don't think it's any better than what the people of Libya have already been living with for the past 40 years. He promised that the country would spiral into civil war for the next 30 to 40 years, that the country's infrastructure would be ruined, hospitals and schools would no longer be functioning - but schools are already terrible, hospitals are already in bad condition.

Protesters 'shot dead'

His address followed reports that security forces had shot dead scores of protesters in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, where residents said a military unit had joined their cause.

There were also reports of clashes between anti-government protesters and Gaddafi supporters around the Green Square.

"We are in Tripoli, there are chants [directed at Gaddafi]: 'Where are you? Where are you? Come out if you're a man," a protester told Al Jazeera on phone.

A resident told the Reuters news agency that he could hear gunshots in the streets and crowds of people.

"We're inside the house and the lights are out. There are gunshots in the street," the resident said by phone. "That's what I hear, gunshots and people. I can't go outside."

An expatriate worker living in the Libyan capital told Reuters: "Some anti-government demonstrators are gathering in the residential complexes. The police are dispersing them. I can also see burning cars."

There were also reports of protesters heading to Gaddafi's compound in the city of Al-Zawia near Tripoli, with the intention of burning the building down.

Meanwhile the head of the Al-Zuwayya tribe in eastern Libya has threatened to cut off oil exports unless authorities stop what he called the "oppression of protesters", the Warfala tribe, one of Libya's biggest, has reportedly joined the anti-Gaddafi protests.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Shaikh Faraj al Zuway said: "We will stop oil exports to Western countries within 24 hours" if the violence did not stop. The tribe lives south of Benghazi, which has seen the worst of the deadly violence in recent days.

Akram Al-Warfalli, a leading figure in the Al Warfalla tribe, one of Libya's biggest, told the network: "We tell the brother (Gaddafi), well he's no longer a brother, we tell him to leave the country." The tribe lives south of Tripoli.

Protests have also reportedly broken out in other cities, including Bayda, Derna, Tobruk and Misrata - and anti-Gaddafi graffiti adorns the walls of several cities.

Anti-government protesters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi have reportedly seized army vehicles and weapons amid worsening turmoil in the African nation.

A local witness said that a section of the troops had joined the protesters on Sunday as chaos swept the streets of the city, worst hit by the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year old rule.

Mohamed, a doctor from Al Jalaa hospital in Benghazi, confirmed to Al Jazeera that members of the military had sided with the protesters.

"We are still receiving serious injuries, I can confirm 13 deaths in our hospital. However, the good news is that people are cheering and celebrating outside after receiving news that the army is siding with the people," he said.

"But there is still a brigade that is against the demonstrators. For the past three days demonstrators have been shot at by this brigade, called Al-Sibyl brigade."

The witness reports came on a day in which local residents told Al Jazeera that at least 200 people had died in days of unrest in Benghazi alone. The New York-based Human Rights Watch on Sunday put the countrywide death toll at 173. The rights group said its figure was "conservative".

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

1 comment:

brian said...

Libya arrests Arab 'network' for destabilising country
AFP, Feb 20, 2011, 05.21am IST

Read more: Libya arrests Arab 'network' for destabilising country - The Times of India

TRIPOLI: Libyan authorities have arrested dozens of members of a "network" of Arab nationals allegedly seeking to destabilise the country, the official Jana news agency reported Saturday.

Those detained in several Libyan cities were members of a "foreign network (and were) trained to damage Libya's stability, the safety of its citizens and national unity."

Sources close to the investigation, quoted by the agency, said the group included Tunisian, Egyptian, Sudanese, Palestinian, Syrian and Turkish citizens.

Those arrested were "charged with inciting acts of looting and sabotage, such as burning hospitals, banks, courts, prisons, police stations and offices of the military police, as well as public buildings and private properties, according to plans drawn up earlier," Jana said.

Noting that "certain Libyan cities have been the scene of acts of sabotage and destruction since Tuesday," Jana said the suspects sought to "take arms from police stations and the military police and use them."

"Sources close to the investigation have not ruled out Israel being behind the network," the news agency added, without providing details.

On the fifth day of an unprecedented challenge to his four-decade regime, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi has still made no public comment, although he reportedly appeared at a mass rally of supporters in the capital on Thursday.

Human Rights Watch said security forces have killed more than 80 anti