Security forces and protesters have clashed in Libya’s capital for a second night, after the government announced a new crackdown. Witnesses say warplanes have fired on protesters in Tripoli. To the west of the city, sources say the army is fighting forces loyal to ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi, who appears to be struggling to hold on to power. Libya’s deputy envoy to the UN has called on Col Gaddafi to step down, and accused his government of genocide. Ibrahim Dabbashi said that if Col Gaddafi did not relinquish power, “the Libyan people will get rid of him”. The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in neighbouring Egypt, says Col Gaddafi has now lost the support of almost every section of society.Reliable sources say Col Gaddafi has now left the capital, our correspondent adds.
Clashes in Tripoli on Sunday night were suppressed by the security forces. On Monday, state TV reported a renewed operation had begun against opposition elements. Mr Dabbashi, the deputy envoy to the UN, called for international intervention to end the crisis. “It is a real genocide whether it is in the eastern cities of Libya or whether what is going now in Tripoli,” he said. “The information that we are receiving from the people in Tripoli is the regime is killing whoever goes out to the streets.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had urged Col Gaddafi in a 40-minute phone call to halt the escalating violence. EU foreign ministers released a statement condemning the “ongoing repression against demonstrators”, and said they deplored the violence and death of civilians.
Some European ministers have voiced concern that there could be a wave of illegal immigration, after Libya threatened to break co-operation on controlling the flow of Tunisians to Italy. Libya had warned it could suspend co-operation in response to the condemnation of its crackdown on protesters. Meanwhile, two Libyan fighter jets have landed in Malta, where officials say the pilots defected after they were ordered to bomb civilians.
Two Libyan helicopters apparently carrying French oil workers have also landed in Malta.
Muammar Gaddafi set the stage for a violent, final showdown to crush Libya’s popular uprising by urging loyalists to take to the streets to fight “greasy rats” in the pay of enemies ranging from the US to al-Qaida. In an angry, ranting and often incoherent speech, the beleaguered Libyan leader ignored evidence of repression and bloodshed, including new reports of death squads, to insist that he would die in his homeland rather than flee abroad. “I am not going to leave this land,” Gaddafi vowed in a live broadcast on state TV. “I will die as a martyr at the end … I shall remain, defiant. Muammar is leader of the revolution until the end of time.” Speaking in front of the Tripoli compound bombed by US planes in 1986, he invoked the spirit of resistance to foreign powers and warned that the US could occupy Libya like Afghanistan. He claimed protesters were on hallucinogenic drugs and wanted to turn Libya into an Islamic state. They deserved the death penalty, he said, waving his Green Book.
His address showed that, despite an estimated 300 people already killed, he is prepared to unleash more violence even though parts of the country, including its second city, Benghazi, Tobruk and other eastern towns, are already out of control of his security forces. Ominously, he observed that “the integrity of China was more important than [the people] in Tiananmen Square” – scene of the 1989 massacre of democracy protesters. Reports from Tripoli described corpses left in the streets, burnt-out cars and shops, and armed mercenaries who looked as if they were from other parts of Africa. Residents were running out of food and water because they feel too threatened to leave their houses. Videos emerged on a filesharing website of mobs lynching two people who were understood to be mercenaries. Other film appeared of a demonstrator shot in the head by a sniper and of bodies torn apart, perhaps by artillery fire.
“Men in brand new Mitsubishi cars without licence plates are shooting at groups of people, three or four, wherever they see them gathering,” said a resident of the Tripoli neighbourhood of Fashloum. “These are Gaddafi’s death squads.” The BBC broadcast footage sent out of Libya via the internet which showed protesters under fire in Tripoli and troops patrolling residential neighbourhoods. Phone lines into the country were down. International efforts to influence the Libyan crisis moved painfully slowly. The UN security council was meeting in New York but was not expected to do more than issue a presidential statement condemning the violence. Western diplomats said it was too soon for the council to discuss sanctions against Libya or the imposition of an internationally policed “no-fly zone” to stop Libyan aircraft targeting civilians. But Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, called for the “immediate cessation of grave human rights violations committed by Libyan authorities”.
Citing reports of the use of machine guns, snipers and aircraft against civilians, she called for an independent international investigation into the killings. “The callousness with which Libyan authorities and their hired guns are reportedly shooting live rounds of ammunition at peaceful protesters is unconscionable,” Pillay said. With communications sporadic, it was impossible to confirm reports that key army units had defected or that officers had refused to obey orders to attack civilians. A Libyan naval frigate which sailed in the Maltese capital, Valletta, was thought to be seeking to surrender. Unconfirmed reports on Tuesday said the interior minster had resigned, urging the army to join the people and respond to the “legitimate demands”.
Libyan and foreign analysts said Gaddafi’s characteristically bizarre performance underlined his desperation. “He is like an injured animal,” said an exiled opposition activist, Abu Nasser. “He knows he has his back to the wall.” Noman Benotman, a former Islamist fighter, said: “He will stay and fight until the last day.” Like his son Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi played deliberately on fears of division, foreign occupation and civil war and Somalia-like state collapse. Crowds of protesters were seen hurling shoes at a giant TV screen as Gaddafi spoke. State TV broadcast pictures of supporters cheering and waving flags.
William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary, scorned Gaddafi’s claim of a conspiracy of world leaders against him. “There is no such conspiracy,” he said. “It is his own people who are rising up against him and trying to overthrow him and it is his own people who he has shamefully failed to protect from his own forces.” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, called the speech “very frightening”. The Arab League, meeting in special session in Cairo, said it was suspending Libya from its sessions. In Brussels, the EU suspended a framework agreement it had been negotiating with Libya. In London, Libyan anti-government protesters gathered at Downing Street to demand Gaddafi step down. Film-maker and opposition activist Mohamed Maklouf attacked the “hypocrisy” of the west. “They don’t care about the Arabs … they only care about the oil,” he said.
TOBRUK, Libya — Libya appeared to slip further into chaos on Tuesday, as Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi vowed to “fight until the last drop of my blood” and clashes intensified between rebels and his loyalists in the capital, Tripoli. Opposition forces claimed to have consolidated their hold over a string of cities across nearly half of Libya’s 1,000 mile Mediterranean coast, leaving Colonel Qaddafi in control of just parts of the capital and some of southern and central Libya, including his hometown. Witnesses described the streets of Tripoli as a war zone. Several residents said they believed that massacres had taken place overnight as forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi drove through the streets opening fire at will from the backs of pickup trucks. “They would drive around, and they would start shooting, shooting, shooting,” said one resident reached by telephone. “Then they would drive like bandits, and they would repeat that every hour or so. It was absolute terror until dawn.” Human Rights Watch said it had confirmed at least 62 deaths in the violence in Tripoli so far, in addition to more than 200 people killed in clashes elsewhere, mostly in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the uprising began last week. Opposition groups estimated that at least 500 people had been killed.
For a second time, Colonel Qaddafi appeared on state television. Dressed in brown robes with a matching turban, he sometimes shouted and seemed to tremble with anger as he delivered a harangue that lasted some 73 minutes. His lectern was planted in the middle of the old wreckage of his two-story house in the Aziziyah barracks in Tripoli, a house American warplanes had destroyed in a 1986 air raid and which he has left as a monument to American perfidy. In the rambling, sometimes incoherent address, he said those challenging his government “deserved to die.” He blamed the unrest on “foreign hands,” a small group of people distributing pills, brainwashing, and the naïve desire of young people to imitate the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Without acknowledging the gravity of the crisis in the streets of the capital, he described himself in sweeping, megalomaniacal terms. “Muammar Qaddafi is history, resistance, liberty, glory, revolution,” he declared. Earlier, the state television broadcast images of a cleaned up Green Square in central Tripoli, the scene of a violent crackdown Monday night. It showed a few hundred Qaddafi supporters waving flags and kissing photographs of him for the cameras. With the Internet largely blocked, telephone service intermittent and access to international journalists constrained, information from inside the country remained limited, and it was impossible to determine whether the demonstrations were staged.
The rebellion is the latest and bloodiest so far of the uprisings that have swept across the Arab world with surprising speed in recent weeks, toppling autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia and challenging others in Bahrain and Yemen. Opponents of Colonel Qaddafi had tightened their control of cities from the Egyptian border in the east to Ajdabiya, an important site in the oil fields of central Libya, said Tawfiq al-Shahbi, a protest organizer in the eastern city of Tobruk. He said that had visited the crossing station into Egypt and that border guards had fled. In Tobruk and Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city, protesters were raising the pre-Qaddafi flag of Libya’s monarchy on public buildings, he and other protesters said. Despite the crackdown by pro-Qaddafi forces, clashes continued in several neighborhoods in Tripoli, including one called Fashloum, as protesters tried to seal off the streets with makeshift barricades of scrap metal and other debris. Forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi so far failed to surmount the barricades and young protesters appeared to be gathering rocks to defend against another attack. Outside the barricades, militiamen and Bedouin tribesmen defending Colonel Qaddafi and his 40-year rule were stationed at intersections around the city. Many carried Kalashnikov assault rifles and an anti-aircraft gun was deployed in front of the state television headquarters. “It is extremely tense,” one witness said, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals.
Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif wagged his finger repeatedly at the cameras during his rambling state address on Libyan television on Sunday night. It was a habit borne of the belief that he would one day take over from his tyrannical father to continue Libya’s brutally repressive rule. But there was no doubting the desperation in his voice as he warned that ‘rivers of blood’ would run through the country and it would be plunged into civil war unless the uprising was crushed. He blamed drug addicts, drunks and foreign agents for fomenting the violence now coursing through the land where he and his family once had an iron grip. There was no hint of contrition. Not once did he apologise for the countless deaths inflicted by the soldiers and henchman of his father’s bloody regime. And yet, with his impeccable English and flawless manners, 38-year-old Saif Gaddafi has long been regarded as the acceptable face of the Gaddafi clan. What is so deeply worrying is that he has tentacles deep in the heart of the British establishment. He has extremely powerful friends in Britain, among them Prince Andrew and the Rothschilds as well as Peter Mandelson.
In the boardrooms and cabinets of Western capitals Saif was always the preferred choice as heir. Colonel Gaddafi has seven sons, but the second, Saif al-Islam (it means Sword of Islam) was always generally considered the most likely to follow his father – although another brother, Mutassim, Libya’s national security adviser, recently emerged as a serious contender. Despite his incoherent statement in support of an authoritarian crackdown on Sunday night, Saif has in the past spoken enthusiastically about reform, democracy and human rights. He was educated in Europe and did a PhD at the London School of Economics, for which he has a particular affection and regard. He is an accomplished amateur artist and an architect with his own practice, although his wealth is said to come from interests linked back to Libya’s national oil company. Certainly, he is rich. By way of diversion, Saif likes to romp with his pet tigers.
He keeps them at his villa on a hillside overlooking Tripoli, along with his hunting falcons, sporting guns and other trappings essential to the life of a desert princeling. Saif often emerges from his encounters with the big cats bloodied and bruised, yet cheerfully game for a re-match. It may help to explain why, in his campaign to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, he found Labour ministers were mere pussycats. Saif has a house close to Bishop’s Avenue, the so-called Millionaire’s Row, in Hampstead, north London. The Georgian style, newly-built property has eight bedrooms, an indoor pool, sauna and a cinema lined in suede-covered panelling. It cost him £10million. In Britain, Saif moves in exclusive circles. He and Prince Andrew have a mutual close friend, the Kazakh-born socialite and businesswoman Goga Ashkenazy.
She recently helped arrange Saif’s visit to Kazakhstan where he met the president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and senior figures in the energy industry.
Prince Andrew has made a number of visits to Libya as Britain’s ambassador for trade and has spent time with Saif in Tripoli. In return, the prince has hosted Saif at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Witness, too, the shooting party given in 2009 by Jacob, 4th Baron Rothschild at his home in Buckinghamshire, Waddesdon Manor, a Renaissance-style chateau sometimes described as ‘a mini Versailles’. Saif was a guest, with Lord Mandelson, then Business Secretary. Cherie Blair, whose acquisition of a country house nearby makes her the Rothschilds’ neighbour, was there the same weekend for dinner, but not at the same time as Saif.
Mandelson and Saif got along famously and the subject of Al Megrahi, who was still in jail, was raised. Mandelson insists there was no negotiation. Also at Waddesdon Manor was Nat Rothschild, Lord Rothschild’s son. Nat and Saif are great pals. They also have a friend in common, Oleg Deripaska, the controversial Russian oligarch who was the last man standing after the bloody war for control of Russia’s aluminium industry in the 1990s. Deripaska, it will be recalled, was part of the infamous summer gathering at the Rothschild house on Corfu in 2008 when Mandelson and George Osborne, then chancellor-in-waiting, were guests. Saif has also stayed with the Rothschilds on Corfu and, on a separate occasion, met Mandelson there.
The August 2008 affair led to Osborne denying he had asked Deripaska for a donation to the Tory party and denials by Mandelson that he had favoured the Russian’s aluminium interests when he was a European commissioner. It was all very messy. Deripaska has a valuable interest in Porto Montenegro, a vast marina and superyacht project in the Bay of Kotor on the Adriatic. The driving force behind the scheme is Peter Munk, the 83-year-old billionaire head of the world’s biggest goldmining concern, Barrick Gold. Jacob and Nat Rothschild are also investors in the Montenegro venture which, Munk says, will become the new Monaco. When Saif threw a huge party to celebrate his 37th birthday he held it close to his friends’ Montenegro development, inviting some of the world’s leading business figures, including Munk, a few very powerful Russians and Lakshmi Mittal, the British-based steel tycoon. The party was seen as an effort to give a boost to the profile of his friends’ marina project. His closeness to Nat Rothschild and Deripaska is also believed to be behind Libya’s decision to invest heavily in Deripaska’s aluminium concern, Rusal.
The Libyan Investment Authority took a $300million (£185million) stake in Rusal when it was floated in Hong Kong last year. The Rothschilds were Deripaska’s advisers and separately Nat invested $100million (£62million) in the company, the world’s largest producer of aluminium. Saif was also involved in an ongoing plan for Rusal to produce aluminium on a major scale inside Libya. Aluminium, however, will be the last thing on Saif’s mind tonight as Tripoli goes up in flames. As for his friends and business partners in the West, they may well be regretting getting quite so close to the dictator’s son whose television address on Sunday night showed him at last in his true colours.