Libya awash in blood as officials warn of imminent civil war

World leaders condemn Gadaffi for violence

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Posted on: 
22 Feb 2011
Libya awash in blood as officials warn of imminent civil war

Witnesses reported seeing scores of dead bodies littering the streets of the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Tuesday, as security forces loyal to long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi opened fire on protesters in a desperate bid to put an end to days of anti-government protests.

"They were driving like mad men searching for someone to kill... It was total chaos, shooting and shouting," one 28-year-old protester said. Many government buildings, including police headquarters and the national parliament building, were reported to be burning Tuesday morning.

A total curfew has been imposed on the city, with security forces warning that anyone on the streets will be shot on site. Heavy artillery, helicopter gunships and jet bombers have fired on protesters and witnesses reported that even ambulances attempting to evacuate the wounded were fired upon, drawing a fierce political backlash from world leaders even as Gaddafi gave a brief televised address to try and reassert his authority.

"I am here to show that I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela," Gaddafi said, adding a warning not to believe media reports that he had left the country.

The address and brutal repression have done little to dispel rumors of Gaddafi's imminent departure from the scene. Libyan ambassadors in several world capitals have resigned in protest and two Libyan military aircraft landed in Malta where the pilots, both colonels, asked for assaylum after reporting that they had refused orders to attack civilians. There have also been reports that Navy vessels have fired on coastal installations and Air Force jets have attacked some Army posts and police stations, indicating that Gadaffi is attempting to punish units suspected of disloyalty. Reports have also surfaced that soldiers and police unwilling to fire on civilians have been executed by their comrades.

Meanwhile, prominent Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood cleric Yusuf Qaradawi told Al-Jazeera on Monday, "Whoever in the Libyan army is able to shoot a bullet at Mr. Gaddafi should do so" adding a warning to Libyan soldiers "not to obey orders to strike at your own people."

Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, is reported to be completely under the control of protesters as entire Army units have joined the opposition.

"Gaddafi needs one more push and he is gone," said Amal Roqaqie, a lawyer at the Benghazi court. Protesters are "imposing a new reality...Tripoli will be our capital. We are imposing a new order and new state, a civil constitutional and with transitional government."

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Gaddafi to "stop this unacceptable bloodshed" adding that the world was watching events in Libya "with alarm" in sentiments echoed by many other world leaders. Investors have also reacted, as oil prices jumped to nearly $88 a barrel on Monday as energy companies announced they were evacuating their workers from Libya, an OPEC member which produces 1.6 million barrels of oil a day, mainly for the European market.

Several European countries have begun to evacuate their nationals in Libya and moved air and naval assets to international waters north of Libya in anticipation of a need to assist refugees. Thousands of refugees have already arrived in Italy fleeing recent unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, prompting calls for emergency meetings of NATO and EU governments to deal with the crisis.


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