News / Africa

Libya's Leader Blames al-Qaida for Protests

A man fires his pistol into the air as he celebrates with other people in an army armored vehicle in Shahat, Libya, February 24, 2011
A man fires his pistol into the air as he celebrates with other people in an army armored vehicle in Shahat, Libya, February 24, 2011

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has blamed Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida terrorists for the anti-government protests in his country.

In a Thursday speech relayed to state television by telephone, he said al-Qaida forces had given "hallucinogenic" drugs to youth in Libya to get them to incite unrest.  He said people "with any brains" would not take part in the demonstrations. He urged parents to "control" their children and keep them at home.

Independent news reports, however, do not link al-Qaida to the uprising.

Mr. Gadhafi also expressed his condolences for those killed in the unrest in what was his second national address since the protests erupted.  And, he said he had become a "symbolic" leader who had no authority to impose rules on Libyans.

The speech came as violence continued between fighters loyal to Mr. Gadhafi and anti-government forces pushing for him to give up power.

Witnesses say the fighting Thursday took place about 200 kilometers east of the capital, Tripoli, in the city of Misrata, where anti-government forces on Wednesday claimed to have taken control of the country's third largest city.

Another clash broke out Thursday just west of the capital in the city of Zawiya. A witness told a reporter for The Associated Press   that Gadhafi loyalist forces blasted the minaret of a mosque where protesters were taking refuge.

Mr. Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi claimed Thursday that the number of people killed by government crackdowns on protesters has been exaggerated.  

The overall death toll has been impossible to determine. Human rights groups say they have confirmed about 300 deaths. Witnesses suggest the number is far larger, and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Wednesday more than 1,000 people have likely been killed in Libya's week-long uprising.

Slide show of latest situation in Libya

Thursday's fighting came as anti-government forces consolidated control over key eastern cities, and vowed to "liberate" Tripoli.

Protest organizers in the capital, which is Mr. Gadhafi's stronghold, called for new rallies Friday, raising the potential for a new confrontation there.

Armed militiamen and pro-Gadhafi loyalists - a mix of Libyans and African mercenaries - are reportedly roaming through Tripoli and fortifying the city's outer defenses. Security agents are said to be searching for people considered disloyal to the regime.

The U.S. State Department says senior Libyan officials told U.S. diplomats that some members of the media will be allowed into the country to report on the situation.  But these same officials said that some reporters have entered Libya illegally and that the government considers these reporters al-Qaida collaborators.

Protesters and mutinous army units are said to be consolidating their hold on nearly the entire eastern half of Libya's 1,600 kilometer-long coastline, setting up rudimentary governments and manning checkpoints along the main roads.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of the revolt against Mr. Gadhafi, rebels and supporters thronged the streets waving red, green and black monarchy-era flags and handing out food to passing cars. Benghazi residents also formed units to collect weapons and protect property.

In the eastern city of Baida, police stations, intelligence buildings and other installations representing Mr. Gadhafi's rule stood in ruins as people celebrated in the street. A VOA correspondent at the Egyptian border with Libya says "well-armed men" celebrating their control of the region were chanting and waving the country's pre-Gadhafi-era flag.

The disintegration of Libya's government has added to the relative power of Libya's many tribes, each claiming the loyalty of thousands of members. Colonel Gadhafi's tribe, the Gadhafa, dominates parts of the armed forces. The Warfalla - cut out of the power structure since members allegedly attempted to overturn the regime in 1993 - have backed the eastern rebellion.

Mr. Gadhafi took power in a 1969 coup.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs