News / Africa

Gadhafi Loyalists Reinforce Grip on Tripoli, Protests Spread

A Libyan protester holds up a sign against Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration, in Tobruk, Libya, February 23, 2011.
A Libyan protester holds up a sign against Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration, in Tobruk, Libya, February 23, 2011.

Fighters loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are reinforcing their grip on the capital, Tripoli, as a growing popular uprising spreads across the eastern half of the country.

Anti-government forces there have consolidated control over key cities, and have vowed to "liberate" Tripoli.

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

Empty streets

Tripoli residents said the streets were largely deserted Wednesday, with people afraid to leave their homes. 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.

Anti-government forces claimed to have taken control of Misurata, Libya's third-largest city about 200 kilometers from Tripoli, marking the westernmost advance of the opposition movement. People fleeing across the border into Tunisia reported heavy fighting in the town of Sabratha, 80 kilometers west of the capital.

Protests spreading

Meanwhile, protesters and mutinous army units continue to consolidate 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.

Video clips: Libya Protest (Some video clips courtesy of YouTube)

In the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the revolt against 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 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.

Military defections

In a further sign of Gadhafi's faltering hold, a Libyan newspaper reported Wednesday that two air force pilots parachuted out of their warplane and let it crash into the eastern Libyan desert rather than follow orders to bomb Benghazi. Earlier, two Libyan bombers had diverted to Malta rather than bomb civilians.

Gadhafi vowed to stay in power and called on his supporters to fight back against opposition protesters during a televised address Tuesday -- his first since the uprising began last week. He described anti-government demonstrators as "gangs" and "terrorists" on hallucinogenic drugs and threatened death to anyone who took up arms against Libya.

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

Slide show of latest situation in Libya

Loyalist defections

In a significant setback to Gadhafi, a close associate, Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younis, announced his defection and support for the uprising. Numerous other Libyan officials, including the justice minister, diplomats and military officers, have also turned against the Libyan leader in recent days.

On Wednesday, former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil was quoted as telling Swedish tabloid Expressen that Gadhafi personally ordered the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people. Gadhafi has accepted Libya's responsibility for the bombing and paid compensation to the victims' families. But he hasn't admitted to personally giving the order for the attack.

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.

Gadhafi took power in a 1969 coup.

 

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs