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Rediff.com  » News » PIX: Gaddafi regime totters; 'Massacre' in Tripoli

PIX: Gaddafi regime totters; 'Massacre' in Tripoli

Last updated on: February 22, 2011 09:44 IST

I have not fled from Libya: Gaddafi

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Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi made an appearance on state-run television early Tuesday morning to put to rest speculations that he had fled to Venezuela after anti-government protesters took control of several cities in the north African country and reached capital Tripoli.

"I want to have some rest," the embattled Libyan leader told a reporter in front of what Libyan television said was his house as he pulled out an umbrella in the rain.

"Because I was talking to the young man at Green Square, and I want to stay the night with them but then it started raining. I want to show them that I am in Tripoli, not in Venezuela. Don't believe those dogs in the media," he added.

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Image: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi speaks on state television in this February 22 image taken from video footage
Photographs: Libya TV via Reuters TV
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Gaddafi regime totters; 'Massacre' in Tripoli

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Meanwhile, anti-government protesters came under a brutal crackdown in capital Tripoli where violence has claimed scores of lives

Al Jazeera said at least 61 people were killed on Tuesday in what some witnesses described as a 'massacre' at a huge anti-government rally.

A growing number of four-decade-old Gaddafi regime figures have defected, as the government crackdown on the protesters intensified with state TV reporting that Libyan security forces launching operation against what it called 'dens of terrorists'.


Image: A demonstrator spits at a picture of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi
Photographs: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
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Gaddafi regime totters; 'Massacre' in Tripoli

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Libya's ambassador in Washington, Ali Adjali, told BBC World that the reports of firing from warplanes spurred his decision not to support the government any more.

"To me it is a very sad moment seeing Libyans killing other Libyans," he said. "I'm not supporting the government killing its people. I am (not) resigning Moammar Gadhafi's government, but I am with the people. I am representing the people in the street, the people who've been killed, the people who've been destroyed. Their life is in danger."

There were also reports that some military aircraft fired at the protesters in Tripoli.

All landless and wireless communications in the oil-rich north African country are also reported to have been cut. 


Image: A Libyan protester uses a shoe to hit a crossed-out picture of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
Photographs: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters
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Gaddafi regime totters; 'Massacre' in Tripoli

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According to Human Rights Watch, at least 223 people have been killed in five days of violence but some other international rights groups said there could be up to 400 dead in the unrest.

As calls from around the world grew loud for restraint, 68-year-old Gaddafi's son pledged to fight the revolt to the 'last man standing', warning protesters that Libya was neither Tunisia nor Egypt. 

"We will keep fighting until the last man standing, even to the last woman standing. We will not leave Libya to the Italians or the Turks," Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said.


Image: Saif al-Islam, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, gestures as he speaks during an address on state television in Tripoli, in this still image taken from video
Photographs: Libyan TV via Reuters TV
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Gaddafi regime totters; 'Massacre' in Tripoli

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As people in the capital joined protests for the first time after days of violent unrest in the eastern city of Benghazi, he appeared on television and said that the regime will not back out even to the last bullet. 

As the crackdown intensified, Libya's justice minister Mustapha Abdeljalil resigned in protest to "the excessive use of force" while a senior Libyan diplomat in China and Libya's Ambassador to India also quit in protest. 

Libyan diplomats in the UN accused the regime of committing genocide.


Image: Egyptian and Libyan protesters shout slogans against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
Photographs: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters
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Gaddafi regime totters; 'Massacre' in Tripoli

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Anti-government protesters took to the streets of Tripoli, in a revolt that started from Benghazi, where Gaddafi's grip has traditionally been weaker.

Al Jazeera reported that tribal leaders too spoke out against Gaddafi, while some army units defected to opposition. Protesters appeared to be largely in control in the coastal city of Benghazi, where government buildings were set ablaze after security forces were forced to retreat.

International concern at the crackdown on the unprecedented unrest rocking Libya is growing as events unfold.


Photographs: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
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Gaddafi regime totters; 'Massacre' in Tripoli

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world was 'watching the situation in Libya with alarm'.

"We join the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya. Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed," she said in a written statement.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was 'outraged' by reports that Libyan security forces had fired on demonstrators from fighter jets and helicopters.

Saying Ban wanted Gaddafi to "immediately" halt violence, Martin Nesirky said: "Such attacks against civilians, if confirmed, would constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law and would be condemned by the secretary-general in the strongest terms."


Image: Libyan protesters tear down a sign from a building during a demonstration in the seaport city of Tobruk
Photographs: Reuters
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Meanwhile, authorities in Malta said they were holding two Libyan pilots who landed on Monday for questioning after the men said they were forced to flee their base in eastern Benghazi when it was taken over by protesters.

"One of the pilots requested political asylum" after the two descended from their single-seater Mirage F1 jets, a government spokesman said.

Two helicopters also landed at the same time carrying seven passengers who said they were French nationals working on oil rigs near Benghazi, the base of the popular uprising. The markings on the French-registered Super Puma helicopters were for Heli Union -- a company specialising in air transport for oil and gas majors


Image: A Libyan airforce pilot descends from his Mirage F1 fighter jet after landing at Malta International Airport outside Valletta
Photographs: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters
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