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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers 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.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid