The uprising against Libya’s leader Moammar Gaddafi grew stronger on Wednesday as the opposition took wider and greater control of the eastern part of the country, and senior level political defections continued.
Although news out of Tripoli is difficult to confirm due to the government crackdown on the internet and media, there were reports that the streets of the capital city – still a Gaddafi stronghold – were deserted Wednesday night as people stayed inside, fearful to be seen. Reports abound that hired mercenaries from Africa have been instructed by the government to shoot at will.
ABC News reports eyewitnesses described “a bloody scene unfolding in the streets of Tripoli.” As one resident told ABC’s reporter by telephone: “A woman went looking out the balcony of her house. They shot her dead, looking out of the balcony. She wasn’t shouting, she wasn’t even protesting. Just looking out of the balcony. They shot her dead… These are not humans. These are gorillas.”
In the meantime, the government sent a text message Wednesday that called for people to go back to work and carry on as usual.
Take a look at this video that purportedly shows African mercenaries patrolling the streets of Tripoli at night:
On the heels of the increased reports of gunshots and violence, the United States and other countries continue to try to evacuate citizens. The State Department chartered a ferryboat to take hundreds of Americans from Tripoli to Malta, but the first trip is now delayed due to bad weather.
Libyans, too, are trying to flee. CNN reports people trying to get across the border to Tunisia have been coming up against multiple checkpoints — as many as 20 — where Libyan security officers have been confiscating cell phones, and SIM cards, and any possible evidence of the government crackdown. Tripoli’s airport was reportedly jammed with people trying to get out.
Time magazine reports Gaddafi has ordered his security forces to sabotage oil facilities and start blowing up oil pipelines to cut off flows to ports in the Mediterranean. In fact, according to multiple reports, two military pilots who were ordered to bomb oil fields southwest of Benghazi today chose defy orders, and instead hit the eject button, parachuting to safety before crashing their aircraft into an uninhabited area.
Over the past few days the opposition has gained control of areas in the east — in Benghazi and now Tobruk — and new reports today say rebels have claimed victory in Misurata, a provincial center just 130 miles east of the capital and Libya’s third largest city — which as the New York Times points out, is “another indication that the rebellion was encroaching on cities closer to Colonel Qaddafi’s stronghold of Tripoli.” The Times also says large protests were being reported in the southern city of Sabha, considered a Gaddafi stronghold — and yet another indication of the dictator’s dwindling power.
Take a look at this video from the SaveLibya YouTube channel showing protesters in Tobruk raising what they are calling the “Libyan flag of democracy”:
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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Photo: screenshot of Tobruk flying Libyan flag of democracy via SaveLibya YouTube channel
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