Colonel Moammar Gaddafi spoke live by telephone on Libyan state TV Thursday, blaming the 10-day-old uprising on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and claiming al Qaeda militants are “exploiting” Libyan teenagers, giving them “hallucinogenic pills in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe.”
You can watch and listen to the Al Jazeera English network’s translation of part of Gaddafi’s speech by clicking here.
A few other highlights from Gaddafi’s speech from Al Jazeera’s translation:
As the New York Times pointed out:
The BBC reported on its live blog, Colonel Qaddafi urged the parents of young protesters to “come out of your houses and talk to your sons.” Al Jazeera added that he called on them to “get control of your children.” This echoes a statement by Omar Suleiman, Hosni Mubarak’s vice president, who also suggested that anti-regime protesters in that country were just young people and promised to ask their grandfathers to talk them into ending their demonstrations.
And, in an odd twist to an already odd and rambling speech, Libyan state TV inserted this “Urgent” banner headline, in English, during Gaddafi’s address, replicated here, typos and all:
“voice records have been Seized in the hands of AL qaeda members and its members in the city of AL zawia aiming to carry out sabotage actiions”
The use of English in the banner headline is ‘unusual’ noted Sharon Otterman of the New York Times and
seems like a clear attempt to warn Western countries against supporting the anti-Qaddafi rebels. As several observers have noted on Twitter, the Libyan regime seems to be desperately deploying the same strategy that failed Hosni Mubarak in the end by claiming that autocratic rule is necessary to prevent Islamist groups from seizing power.
Gaddafi’s address was broadcast following reports that pro-government forces had attacked and killed unarmed civilians in Zawiya, a key city about 30 miles to the west of Tripoli near an oil port and refineries. The forces attacked the Souq mosque where protesters were holding an anti-government sit-in and they battled with others who had seized control of an airport outside of Misurata. A doctor at the mosque said 10 people were killed.
The BBC got this account from a Libyan man whose brothers who were part of the protests: “With machine guns, they came into the square. They started shooting the people who didn’t have any kind of weapon to defend themselves. The soldiers were using Kalashnikovs and rocket propelled grenades. My brother said it really was a bloodbath there.”
Here’s a video showing anti-government protesters destroying a Gaddafi billboard in Zawiya:
The attacks on Zawiya and at the airport were a clear attempt by Gaddafi’s forces to maintain control of Tripoli and its surrounding areas. Although Tripoli remains in government control – at least for the time being – most of the eastern half of the country is now in the hands of the opposition, and high level defections continue.
In fact Thursday saw the highest level defection yet: Gaddafi’s cousin and one of his closest aides, Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam ‘announced that he has defected to Egypt in protest against the regime’s bloody crackdown against the uprising,’ MSNBC said. ‘Al-Dam denounced what he called “grave violations to human rights and human and international laws.”’ Benghazi’s police chief, Ali Mahmud Huwaydi, also defected and as al Jazeera reports he ‘now wants to join the protesters.’
As the opposition continues to strengthen, it is starting to mount a united front against Gaddafi. The BBC reports that tribal leaders and politicians met in the eastern city of al-Bayda on Thursday to ‘in one of the first signs of organisation for a bigger fight against the government.’ The BBC report continued:
Pictures broadcast by al Jazeera showed delegates giving speeches in a conference hall, amid loud chants against Col Gaddafi.
Former justice minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who recently resigned in protest at the violence against anti-government demonstrators, said there would be no talks with the Libyan leader and called for him to step down immediately.
In the meantime, world leaders continued to condemn Gaddafi’s violent crackdown on the uprising Thursday, but as MSNBC said “did little to halt the bloodshed.” MSNBC reports, however:
The White House said it was not ruling anything out in its response to the Libyan government’s crackdown against a popular revolt.
“I’m not ruling out bilateral options,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters when asked whether the United States was considering military options. “I’m not ruling anything out.’” He said the situation in the North African oil-producing nation “demands quick action.”
The U.S. also said on Thursday it supported expelling Libya from the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying the government had violated the rights of its people in trying to crush protests.
TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition asking Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has a close relationship with Moammar Gaddafi, to condemn violence against the Libyan protesters.
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