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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Libya On The Brink Of Revolution

Staff Reporters |
February 20, 2011 | 10:57 p.m. PST

Rebellion in Benghazi.
Rebellion in Benghazi.
The 42-year reign of Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi seemed to be in peril of collapse Monday morning as violent protests spread to the capital and after a late night televised speech by Gaddafi’s son further stoked popular rage.

[Check for running updates on the Al Jazeera live blog.] 

[Scroll to bottom for video the latest video report on the uprising]

Gunfire rang out in the capital of Tripoli while some reports suggested that the government had already lost control of the eastern city of Benghazi.

Protesters in that embattled city claim they have seized control of army vehicles and weapons and witnesses tell Al Jazeera that some military units have defected to join the rebellion.

Human Rights Watch claims that at last 223 people have been killed in Libya over the last handful of days as the fighting escalated. There are unconfirmed reports of a higher death toll after the military unleashed snipers, machine guns and helicopter fire against protesters.

On Sunday the Obama administration issued its strongest condemnation yet of the government repression in Libya. But unlike in Egypt, the U.S. has little leverage with Libya.

The regime has also been imperiled by a tribal revolt. Al Jazeera reports:

Meanwhile the head of the Al-Zuwayya tribe in eastern Libya has threatened to cut off oil exports unless authorities stop what he called the "oppression of protesters", the Warfala tribe, one of Libya's biggest, has reportedly joined the anti-Gaddafi protests.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Shaikh Faraj al Zuway said: "We will stop oil exports to Western countries within 24 hours" if the violence did not stop.
The tribe lives south of Benghazi, which has seen the worst of the deadly violence in recent days.

Akram Al-Warfalli, a leading figure in the Al Warfalla tribe, one of Libya's biggest, told the network: "We tell the brother (Gaddafi), well he's no longer a brother, we tell him to leave the country." The tribe lives south of Tripoli.

Protests have also reportedly broken out in other cities, including Bayda, Derna, Tobruk and Misrata - and anti-Gaddafi graffiti adorns the walls of several cities.

There have also been reports of protesters vowing to march on Gadsafi’s headquarters and burn it down.

Violence escalated in the capital Sunday night after the ruler’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi made a national TV address which was both threatening and coherent, calling the protesters “thugs” and “druggies” and warning regime would fight to the “last man standing.”

As the ruler’s son spoke, rumors swirled as to the whereabouts of the strongman who had ruled as an autocrat for the last four decades. 

With the government cutting Internet and press access, confirmed information from Libya is difficult to come but there is little doubt the country is on the brink of revolution.

The Montreal Gazette reports:

Heavy gunfire broke out in central Tripoli and several city areas Monday for the first time since the anti-regime uprising began in eastern Libya, witnesses and an AFP journalist reported.
Witnesses reported clashes in Tripoli's downtown Green Square between protesters and Gadhafi supporters.

A witness in the working-class Gurgi area said security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters.

Confusion prevailed in the city after Gadhafi's speech and unconfirmed rumours that his father had left Libya triggered sounds of celebration, with women ululating and drivers hooting their car horns.

The unrest has spread from the flashpoint city of Benghazi, where demonstrations began on Tuesday, to the Mediterranean town of Misrata, just 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Tripoli.

"This is an opposition movement, a separatist movement which threatens the unity of Libya," Gadhafi said in a fiery but rambling speech which blamed Arab and African elements for fomenting the troubles.
"We will take up arms . . . we will fight to the last bullet," he said. "We will destroy seditious elements. If everybody is armed, it is civil war, we will kill each other."



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