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February 28, 2011

Insurgents Hold Parts of Western Libya, Yemen Protests Continue

Pro-and anti-government forces fought overnight in western Libya, while both sides try to fortify their positions.

A popular committee in the western Libyan town of Zentan says it is joining the uprising against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The group also warns that the Libyan leader is trying to pit tribe against tribe to get them to fight each other.

Colonel Gadhafi told several Western journalists Tuesday that "all of [his] people love [him]" and that they would "die to protect [him]." A number of Libyans later told both al-Jazeera TV and al-Arabiya TV that they "do not love the colonel," and that it is "time for him to resign."

Insurgents and Gadhafi loyalists continued to skirmish overnight in several key towns of western Libya, while an increasing number of government officials and military officers are defecting. A group of officers in uniform read a statement on al-Jazeera TV that they were joining the opposition.

A witness in the town of Zawiya, west of the capital Tripoli, told al-Jazeera TV that Magdi Arabi, a Libyan general loyal to Gadhafi, threatened protesters in the city center to leave or they would be bombed from the air.

Al-Arabiya TV reported that Gadhafi loyalists had retaken the town of Nalout and that they were still controlling at least a dozen checkpoints on the road to the Tunisian border. Witnesses also said it was not clear who controls the towns of Tarhouna and Bani Walid.

In the western Libyan town of Misrata, Dan Porter, an American from Florida who runs a construction company, told a Facebook support group for the Libyan opposition that the people of Misrata are now excited to be free of Gadhafi.

"I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life," he said. "These people are so happy, it’s like they’ve been let out of prison. Gadhafi has kept them down for 42 years and now they’re free. They’re ready to go and to build a new Libya."

Meanwhile, former Libyan Interior Minister Abdel Fatah Younes told several Arab TV channels that "the noose is tightening around Gadhafi’s neck," but that he believes there will be more victims before the longtime leader is defeated.

Yemen protests continue

Elsewhere in the region, in Yemen, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters gathered near Sana'a University to demand the resignation of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Students and pro-democracy advocates have been camped out near the university for more than a week to press their demands.

The embattled Yemeni president addressed a separate crowd Tuesday, insisting that the anti-government uprisings in the Arab world are being orchestrated by Israel and the United States.

He says that the command center for these recent popular uprisings is in Tel Aviv and that the movements are being controlled by the White House.

The Yemeni leader has cooperated with the United States in recent years in fighting al-Qaida militants who have used lawless parts of Yemen to plot attacks. As protests against his rule mounted, he offered to hold a dialogue with opposition parties on forming a national unity government, but the parties rejected the idea on Monday.

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