Monday, February 21, 2011

Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi Appears on State TV

21 February 2011
Last updated at 20:20 ET

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi appears on state TV

Col Gaddafi signalled his defiance over a mounting a revolt against his 40-year rule

Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has dismissed reports that he had fled amid the unrest sweeping the country, calling foreign news channels "dogs".

Speaking to state TV from outside a ruined building, he asserted: "I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela."

UK Foreign Minister William Hague had said he had seen information suggesting Col Gaddafi was on his way to Caracas.

Col Gaddafi's statement came after security forces and protesters clashed in the capital for a second night.

Witnesses say warplanes and helicopters fired on protesters in the city. To the west, sources said the army was fighting forces loyal to Col Gaddafi.

Earlier, the newly established General Committee for Defence said its forces would cleanse Libya of anti-government elements.

A statement described the protesters as "terrorist gangs made up mostly of misguided youths", who had been exploited and fed "hallucinogenic pills" by people following foreign agendas.

But Libya's diplomats at the United Nations in New York called for international intervention to stop the government's violent action against street demonstrations in their homeland.

Deputy Permanent Representative Ibrahim Dabbashi said Libyans had to be protected from "genocide", and urged the UN to impose a no-fly zone.

Ali Aujali, Libya's most senior diplomat in the US, also criticised Col Gaddafi. He told the BBC he was "not supporting the government killing its people".


Col Gaddafi appeared for less than a minute on state television shortly after 0200 local time (0000 GMT).

Tripoli's airport is packed with passengers trying to leave the country. Hundreds of people of different nationalities have gathered with their families.

In the city, the streets are almost empty except for armed police or security with civilian outfits, who are on every corner.

Mobile phone networks are down and even landlines can't dial international calls. Burnt-out buildings are smouldering in several locations, and as the sun sets, there is heavy gunfire in the city centre and planes flying overhead.

He was seated in the passenger seat of an old, white vehicle and held up an umbrella to shield himself from the rain while speaking.

"I am satisfied, because I was speaking in front of the youth in the Green Square tonight, but the rain came praise to God it bears well," he said.

"I want to clarify for them that I am in Tripoli not in Venezuela. Do not believe these channels - they are dogs. Good-bye."

It has been raining in Tripoli for much of the past two days.

Speculation mounted throughout Monday that Col Gaddafi had been forced to flee Libya, especially when Mr Hague told reporters in Brussels that he had "seen information that suggests he is on his way" to Venezuela.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kayem did, however, tell state TV that the leader was still in the country "as are all government officials".

Bombing raids

The BBC's Jon Leyne, in neighbouring Egypt, says Col Gaddafi has now lost the support of almost every section of Libyan society.

Foreign journalists work under tight restriction in Libya, and much of the information coming from the country is impossible to verify.

But the authorities have accepted that eastern cities such as al-Bayda and Benghazi - traditional pockets of resistance to the government - are now under the control of the opposition.

The unrest had not touched Tripoli until Sunday, when hundreds of protesters flooded the streets, only to be suppressed by security forces.

On Monday, state TV reported that a renewed operation had begun against opposition elements.

"Security forces have started to storm into the dens of terror and sabotage, spurred by the hatred of Libya," it said.

A witness in Tripoli told the BBC he could see people being shot down by aircraft.

Another eyewitness in the capital said the suburbs of Fashloom and Zawiyat al-Dahmani had been cordoned off by security forces.

Protesters were out on the streets, and flames and smoke could be seen rising from the areas, the witness said.

Fashloom is one of Tripoli's poorest areas, and a BBC correspondent in the city says there are fears that many people may have died in the clashes.

Witnesses estimate that more than 50 people have been killed in Tripoli since Sunday.

Before the unrest spread there, Human Rights Watch estimated that 233 people had been killed. Other campaign groups said the figure was much higher.

Col Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, later told state media that there had been bombing raids near Tripoli and Benghazi, but said they had targeted ammunition stores and no civilian areas were hit.


Amid the turmoil on the streets, senior officials have begun to desert the regime. Justice Minister Mustapha Abdul Jalil quit the government because of the "excessive use of violence", the Quryna newspaper said.

Libya's envoy to the Arab League, Abdel Moneim al-Honi, announced he was "joining the revolution".

And several diplomatic missions reportedly said they were pledging allegiance to the people of Libya rather than the Gaddafi government.

The US joined "international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya," said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed," she added.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "outraged" at reports that the Libyan authorities had been firing at protesters from military aircraft, and warned that they would constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law, a spokesman said.

EU foreign ministers released a statement condemning the "ongoing repression against demonstrators", and said they deplored the violence and death of civilians.

The violence has helped to push up oil prices to their highest levels since the global financial crisis of 2008. International firms including BP, one of the world's biggest oil companies, are preparing to pull their staff out.

Thousands of Europeans have already fled the country.

1 comment:

brian said...

From Aljazeera:
Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has warned that the widespread attacks against civilians "amount to crimes against humanity", and called for an international investigation in possible human rights violations.
Witnesses in Tripoli told Al Jazeera that fighter jets had bombed portions of the city in fresh attacks on Monday night. The bombing focused on ammunition depots and control centres around the capital.
Helicopter gunships were also used, they said, to fire on the streets in order to scare demonstrators away.

In other words the reports of aerial attacks on civilians has been GREATLY exaggerated!