News / Middle East

Libyan Opposition Fights Pro-Gadhafi Forces in Zawiya

An armed man stands on top of a captured tank in Zawiya, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, in Libya Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011.
An armed man stands on top of a captured tank in Zawiya, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, in Libya Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011.

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International pressure is mounting on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to leave Libya, but he told an American television network that Libyans love him and he has no plans to step down.  Meantime, U.S. officials have come out with their strongest statement yet that Mr. Gadhafi must go, and anti-Gadhafi forces in Zawiya say they are repelling troops loyal to the Libyan leader.

Zawiya is 50 kilometers west of Tripoli.  Witnesses tell VOA that troops and tanks loyal to Moammar Gadhafi are lined up along the coastline, blocking the city's access to the sea.  

One man who says he is a protest leader  told VOA what happened Monday evening as pro-Gadhafi forces tried to enter the town. "Security militia that protects Gadhafi launched an attack from the west side of Zawiya.  What happened then, we managed to kill three armed militiamen and destroy their car.  The rest of them fled," he said.

Another  man said protesters in Zawiya have few weapons and he does not think Libyans alone can topple Mr. Gadhafi. "I think there has to be outside intervention.  Forces should close on him, arrest him and rid the Libyans from him.  Because as the situation goes on, we will witness daily massacres.," he said.

The Obama adminstration on Monday increased its condemnation of Mr. Gadhafi.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to govern and it is time for him to go without futher violence or delay."

But Moammar Gadhafi told ABC News he plans to stay in Libya because his people love him. "They love me, all my people with me. They love me, all. They will die to protect me, my people. No, no," he said.

This is what Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has to say about that. "It sounds just frankly delusional. When he can laugh and talk to American and international journalists while he is slaughtering his people, it only underscores how unfit he is to lead, and how disconnected he is from reality," she said.

VOA has received this video posted on YouTube.  The time frame is not known, but it appears to show Mr. Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, promisings weapons to supporters.

"They are saying that the police have run away.  But today, we will prove the opposite that police are with Libya.  Do you need weapons?  You will receive all the support, all the facilities and weapons.  Everything will be okay and you will be victorious," he said.

But Saif al-Islam Gadhafi denied to ABC News that the government has been ruthless with the Libyan people. "Show me a single attack.  Show me a single bomb.  Show me the casualties," he said.

VOA spoke to one woman in Libya via Skype. She says the proof is in the local hospitals.  "A man who was hit with an RPG [rocket propelled grenade] in his chest.  I saw pictures of a man who was hit with a 14 and a half anti-aircraft weaponry. These are weapons that are supposed to be used on aircraft, not human beings," she said.

The woman asked that we not show her face. She says everyone is tense where she lives, even though forces loyal to Mr. Gadhafi have switched sides to help residents. "They are volunteers that are setting up and the police and army have joined forces with the protesters.  The police officers are stationed throughout the city," she said.

The woman told VOA she does not know what will happen next in Libya. All she wants is to be free and for her child to be safe to play on a playground.

Mideast Unrest 2011 on Dipity.

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Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an award-winning television reporter who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.  She has won an Emmy, many Associated Press awards, and a Clarion for her coverage of Haiti,  national politics, the southern economy, and the 9/11 bombing anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Syrian medical crisis and the Asiana plane crash, and was VOA’s chief reporter from the Boston Marathon bombing.

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