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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs