Just four days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague issued arrest warrants for Libyan leader Colonel Muammar el-Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi for crimes against humanity, the embattled Libyan leader threatened to carry out attacks in Europe unless NATO stops its campaign of airstrikes against his regime.
Gaddafi delivered his threat in a telephone address to thousands of supporters who had gathered in Tripoli’s Green Square on Friday in what’s being called one of the largest pro-government rallies in recent weeks, and a sign, as the AP noted, that embattled or not, he still has the capability of mustering “significant support.” MSNBC reported Gaddafi vowed to stay in power and warned the NATO-led alliance to stop its air war or face “catastrophe.” He also denounced the ICC’s arrest warrant against him. Gaddafi spoke from an “unknown location in a likely sign of concern over his safety,” the AP reported.
“We advise you to retreat before you face a catastrophe,” Gaddafi said in his address to the crowd of supporters, who waved green flags and posters of the Libyan leader, according to MSNBC. “I advise you to ground your planes … and to hold discussions with the Libyan people,” Gaddafi said.
The AP also excerpted Gaddafi’s speech:
“These people (the Libyans) are able to one day take this battle … to Europe, to target your homes, offices, families, which would become legitimate military targets, like you have targeted our homes,” he said.
“We can decide to treat you in a similar way,” he said of the Europeans. “If we decide to, we are able to move to Europe like locusts, like bees. We advise you to retreat before you are dealt a disaster.”
Whether or not Gaddafi can actually make good on such threats is unclear. As the AP also pointed out:
In the past, Gadhafi supported various militant groups, including the IRA and several Palestinian factions, while Libyan agents were blamed for attacks in Europe, including a Berlin disco bombing in 1986 and the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, mostly Americans. Libya later acknowledged responsibility for Lockerbie.
In recent years, however, Gadhafi was believed to have severed his ties with extremist groups when he moved to reconcile with Europe and the United States.
Al-Qaida and other jihadi groups have opposed Gadhafi since he cracked down in the late 1990s on the Islamist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which sought to replace his regime with an Islamic state.
Gaddafi also denounced the rebels in his speech, calling them traitors and blaming them for Libya’s troubles. MSNBC also reported the Libyan leader ‘urged his supporters to “march on the western mountains” to clear the area of weapons the French government delivered to the rebels there several days ago.’
Photo courtesy of BRQ via Flickr