Protests in Libya have moved to the country’s capital in Tripoli, the BBC reports. The country’s second-largest city, Benghazi, now seems to be under the control of protesters. Senior diplomats have been defecting and government buildings in Tripoli, including People’s Hall, where Libya’s equivalent of a parliament meets several times a year, have been set on fire. New marches are planned tonight in Green Square and at Muammar Gaddafi’s residence—indeed, Al-Jazeera Arabic has been reporting calls for a “million man march” in Libya, says the Guardian. And British Foreign Minister William Hague says that he has ‘seen information’ suggesting that Gaddafi may be on his way to Venezuela, says the Guardian.
Below is a video (taken on February 20) of protesters in Benghazi raising the Libyan flag of independence.
Colonel Muanmar el-Qaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, made a ‘rambling, disjointed address’ at 1am on Monday in which he said that the country will fall into civil war if the protests continue and blamed Islamic radicals and Libyans in exile for the uprising, according to the New York Times. Qaddafi’s son, who is the heir-apparent to his father’s position, downplayed the extent of the protests, which are reported to have left at least 230 dead and hundreds wounded as security forces (and mercenaries who are not Libyan citizens) have fired with live ammunition into protesters. ‘”Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt,’” said Qaddafi’s son several times.
This video (also taken on February 20) shows protesters in Benghazi displaying weapons they have seized from mercenaries.
The Guardian reports that Gaddadi’s residence in Tripoli was surrounded by protesters this morning, according to Salem Gnan, a London-based spokesman for the National Front for the Salvation of Libya who says he has spoken to people in Tripoli and Benghazi. There was ‘very heavy fire’ from inside the compound with maybe as many as 80 killed. More from Gnan:
Gnan said there had been “many thousands” of anti-regime protesters on the capital’s street before Libya’s security forces opened fire earlier this morning.
“The protesters ran away and have dispersed now; they are hiding because of the fire but they will be back because they do not have anything to lose now. Tripoli was the last place for Gaddafi and now it will decide what happens. I expect there will be a lot of bloodshed and a lot of people killed because this is the last chance for both sides. But [the protesters] are going to finish this.”
Gnan said he had also spoken to demonstrators in the eastern city of Benghazi.
“They are being bombed by helicopter gunships and jet aeroplanes because Gaddafi wants to punish the place where this started … They were screaming, saying “please help us, help us” because a lot of people are being killed in the bombings. It is a very terrible situation.”
The Guardian reports (via Reuters) some horrific details about soldiers being brutally executed by Gaddafi officers for refusing to fire on civilians.
Among the ministers who have resigned are Justice Minister Mustapha Abdul Jalil who has said that he is quitting his post due to the “excessive use of violence,” according to the privately owned Quryna newspaper (via the BBC). Libya’s envoy to the Arab League, Abdel Moneim al-Honi, also has announced that he is “joining the revolution” and the country’s ambassador to India, Ali al-Essawi, is also resigning.
The situation in Libya has pushed oil prices up to their highest levels since 2008. International firms including BP, which is one of the world’s biggest oil companies, are preparing to pull their staff out of Libya. The BBC reports that at least four foreign workers were injured when several thousand protesters stormed a construction site in Tripoli. According to a Bangladeshi worker in the port city of Darnah (east of Benghazi), some 2,500 foreign workers have been placed under house arrest by anti-government protesters who were in control of the area. Also from the Guardian is a report about the country’s oil reserves: ‘the Libyan Quryna newspaper is reporting that anti-government protests have broken out in the northern city of Ras Lanuf, site of a major oil refinery.’ The refinery has a capacity of 220,000 barrels a day and special committees of workers have been set up to prevent it from being damaged.
The US and the European Union have condemned the violence in Libya, but not yet called for a change of government. There is no sign, as the New York Times says, that Qaddafi will step down; he has said that he will fight until “the last man standing.” With reports (from Reuters) that “several cities in the east” are now in the hands of protesters and of army units defecting to the opposition, that fight may happen very soon.
Most Recent Care2 Coverage of the unrest in the Middle East:
Photo by openDemocracy.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.