Gaddafi attacks his own people with warplanes

Por • 22 feb, 2011 • Sección: Política

TRIPOLI – Muammar Gaddafi used tanks, helicopters and warplanes to fight a growing uprising, witnesses said on Tuesday, as the Libyan strongman scoffed at reports he was fleeing after four decades in power.

The UN refugee agency urged to Libya’s neighbors not to turn back those fleeing the violence, as hundreds of refugees streamed into Egypt on tractors and trucks, describing a wave of killing and banditry unleashed by the revolt, Reuters reported.

In a defiant speech on state television on Tuesday, Gaddafi rejected demands that he relinquish power, even as leaders of a popular revolt seized control in some areas and top officials resigned to protest attacks on civilians.

“I will not leave the country, and I will die as a martyr,” Gaddafi, 68, said in the lengthy but disjointed address, The Washington Post reported.

The Libyan leader, whose government has been weakened in recent days even as it has brutally cracked down on mass protests, also said “damn those who try to stir unrest.” He blamed the six-day-old popular revolt on “mercenaries” and foreign influences.

With the United Nations convening an emergency meeting on Libya and the Arab League planning to weigh in as well, Gaddafi’s vicious crackdown against demonstrators appeared to be fast eroding whatever support had existed for his government.

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) on Tuesday strongly condemned the Libyan government for its violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

The OIC says what is happening in Libya is a humanitarian catastrophe in contravention of all Islamic and humane values, Press TV reported.

The organization said in a statement in Cairo that it considers the violence against protesters in Libya “a humanitarian disaster incompatible with Islamic and human values.”

The organization demanded the Libyan government to immediately end use of force against the protesters.

Iran on Tuesday denounced the massacre of protesters by the Libyan government as unacceptable.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called on the international organizations and forums to take immediate action to stop mass killing of Libyan people through air strikes.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the Muslim Libyan people’s uprising and their rightful demands are in line with the popular uprisings in the region arising from the Islamic awakening,” Mehmanparast said.

“We are worriedly monitoring the latest developments in this country,” he added.

This comes as International Federation for Human Rights reported that as many as 400 people have been killed so far in the revolution.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also called for an international probe into Libya’s violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. Navi Pillay warned the Libyan authorities that systematic attacks against civilians could amount to crime against humanity.

The same message was echoed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who urged the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi to show restraint and stop the violence immediately.

Reports say the Libyan Revolution has gained momentum despite brutal crackdown by Gaddafi’s regime.

In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.

“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.

Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.

“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.

In Tripoli, residents told Reuters there was no visible security force presence on the streets. The only police present were directing traffic, they said, the day after reports that warplanes had bombed portions of the capital and mercenaries had shot civilians.

Refugees fleeing into Egypt told of a wave of violence and crime.

“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on February11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

Libyan security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of repression and following uprisings that have toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

Human Rights Watch says at least 233 people have been killed and opposition groups put the figure much higher but independent verification is impossible.

The revolt in OPEC member Libya has driven oil prices to a 2 1/2 year high above $108 a barrel.

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi. Tripoli’s envoy to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned and told Reuters that African mercenaries had been recruited to help put down protests.

“The fall of Gaddafi is the imperative of the people in streets,” he said. The justice minister also quit and a group of army officers urged soldiers to “join the people.” Two pilots flew their warplanes to nearby Malta.


The country’s state broadcaster quoted Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, and widely seen as his political heir, as saying that armed forces had “bombarded arms depots situated far from populated areas”. He denied that air strikes had taken place in Tripoli and Benghazi.

The government says that it is battling “dens of terrorists”.

Earlier, Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said Gaddafi had started a “genocide against the Libyan people”.

During Monday’s protests, gunfire was heard across the capital, with protesters seen attacking police stations and government buildings, including the offices of the state broadcaster.

Witnesses told the AFP news agency that there had been a “massacre” in Tajura district, with gunmen seen firing “indiscriminately”.

In Fashlum district, helicopters were seen landing with what witnesses described as “mercenaries” disembarking and attacking those on the street.

Mohammed Abdul-Malek, a London-based opposition activist who has been in touch with residents, said that snipers have taken positions on roofs in an apparent bid to stop people joining the protests.

Several witnesses who spoke to the Associated Press news agency said that pro-Gaddafi gunmen were firing from moving cars at both people and buildings.

State television on Tuesday dismissed allegations that security forces were killing protesters as “lies and rumors”.

Benghazi situation dire

Benghazi, Libya’s second city, which had been the focal point of violence in recent days, has now been taken over by anti-government protesters, after military units deserted their posts and joined the demonstrators.

Doctors there, however, say that they are running short of medical supplies.

Dr. Ahmed, at the city’s main hospital, told Al Jazeera that they were running short of medical supplies, medication and blood.

He said that the violence in Benghazi had left “bodies that are divided in three, four parts. Only legs, and only hands”.

While no casualties had been reported in the city on Tuesday, he estimated the number of people killed in Benghazi alone over the last five days to be near 300.

He also said that when military forces who had defected from Gaddafi’s government entered an army base, they found evidence of soldiers having been executed, reportedly for refusing to fire on civilians.

The runway at the city’s airport has been destroyed, according to the Egyptian foreign minister, and planes can therefore not land there.

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