Sunday, February 20, 2011
Saif Ghadafi - "All or Nothing!"
CAIRO – The son of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, warned in a nationally televised address early on Monday that continued anti-government protests could lead to a civil war.
The son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, said the army continued to support his father, although he acknowledged that protesters had seized some military bases, as well as tanks and weapons.
“We are not Tunisia and Egypt,” he said in his rambling and sometimes incoherent address, referring to the successful uprisings that toppled longtime regimes inLibya’s neighbors. But he also acknowledged that the army had made mistakes during the uprising.
Hours earlier, the protests against Mr. Qaddafi’s 40-year rule spread to the capitol, Tripoli, on Sunday night, and protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi were celebrating their takeover of the city and a prominent Libyan diplomat said he was quitting to join “the popular revolution.”
Witnesses in Tripoli interviewed by telephone Sunday night said protesters were converging toward the city’s central Green Square and clashing with heavily armed riot police officers. Young men armed themselves with chains around their knuckles, steel pipes and machetes.
The police had retreated from some neighborhoods, and protesters were seen carrying police batons, helmets and rifles. Protesters had set dumpsters on fire in some neighborhoods, blocking roads. In the early evening the sounds and smells of gunfire hung over the center of the city, which is Libya’s capital, and by midnight looting had begun.
“The state has disappeared from the streets, and the people, the youth, have practically taken over,” said Monsour Abu Shenaf, a resident of Tripoli.
In Benghazi, the country’s second largest city and the starting point of the revolt, three people said that special military forces called in as reinforcements had instead decided to help the protesters take over the local army barracks. “The gunshots you hear are the gunshots of celebration,” said Abdel Latif Al Hadi, 54, a Benghazi resident whose five sons were part of the demonstrations.
Mr. Qaddafi, 68, remained silent on Sunday night. He has watched both the strongmen to his West, in Tunisia, and his East, in Egypt, fall from power in the space of five weeks. But Mr. Qaddafi for decades has skillfully cultivated tribal rivalries to avoid any threat to his authority, and he showed no sign of giving up.
Over the last three days his security forces have killed at least 173 people, according to a running tally by the independent international organization Human Rights Watch. Several people in Benghazi hospitals, reached by telephone, said they thought as many as 200 people had been killed and more than 800 wounded there on Saturday alone, with many of the deaths from machine gun fire. And after protesters marched in a funeral procession Sunday morning, the security forces opened fire again, killing at least 50 more people, a doctor at one hospital said.
The escalating violence in Libya — a cycle of funerals, confrontations and more funerals — has made the revolt there the bloodiest in a wave of uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.
Under Mr. Qaddafi’s four decades of idiosyncratic rule, Libya has become a singular quasi-nation, where the official oratory disdains the idea of a nation-state, tribal bonds remain primary even within the ranks of the military, and both protesters and the security forces have reason to believe that backing down will likely mean their ultimate death or imprisonment.
“The most dreadful crime against humanity is taking place in this city,” Mr. Hadi said Sunday morning in Benghazi, recalling the killings on Saturday. “In the eastern region, there is no going back after this bloodbath.”
In another break with the Qaddafi government, there were reports that the powerful Warfalla tribe had switched its allegiance to the cause of the protesters. A leader of the tribe appeared on the Al-Jazeera news network urging the Qaddafi government to stop firing on civilians and suggesting that it may be time for Mr. Qaddafi to step down.
The Libyan government has attempted to impose a near total news blackout on the country. Foreign journalists are not permitted to enter the country. Internet access has been almost totally cut off, although some protesters appear to be using satellite connections or telephoning information to news services outside the country. Al-Jazeera, viewed by many as a cheerleader for the democracy movements stirring up the region, has been taken off the air in Libya. Several people said Libyans were afraid to talk to the international news media over the telephone for fear of reprisals from the security forces,
Endgame in Libya?
MONDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY 2011
Who the hell knows andwho can tell what might follow if the Gaddafi regime really does collapse? On Sunday night there were all manner of rumours swirling through cyberspace. Some said the Mad Colonel was fleeing to Venezuela. So far that does not seem to be the case. Nor does the speech given by Gaddafi's son Saif last night offer much encouragement.
We are in front of two choices, we can reform now, this is an historic moment, without it there will be nothing for decades. You will see worse than Yugoslavia if we don't choose the first option.Gaddafi is not Mubarak or Ben Ali, a classical ruler, he is a leader of a people. 10,000s of Libyans are coming to defend him...Libyans are coming to support Gaddafi. The army is also there, it will play a big part whatever the cost. The army will play a big role, it is not the army of Tunisia or Egypt. It will supportGaddafi to the last minute. Now in the Green Square people shoot so that they show the world that the army is shooting. We must be awake.
Now comes the role of the National Guard and the Army, we will not lose one inch of this land. 60 years ago they defended Libya from the colonialists, now they will defend it from drug addicts. Most of the Libyans are intelligent, they are not Baltagiya (thugs) Benghazi is a million and a half not the few thousands who are in the streets. We will flight to the last man and woman and bullet. We will not lose Libya. We will not let Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and BBC trick us.
We will live in Libya and die in Libya.
Perhaps this is just the bluster of a regime unsure of its next move and desperate enough to threaten its own people while also, acually, admitting the logic and persuasiveness of at least some of the protestor's demands. You cannot accept the need for reform and start shooting people in the streets. But unless the army keeps shooting it's hard to see how or why the protestors will return home. Even if they did the respite for the regime would, surely, be only temporary. For that matter, shooting people in the streets is also a sign of weakness, not strength. Increasingly it seems that the Gaddafis options amount to choosing the manner and moment of their defeat and eclipse. Eventually, failure carries a price. Even in authoritarian states. The alternative, as Saifwarns, might be full-blown civil war. That's something the regime and only the regime can choose or authorise.
• Gaddafi's son threatens war
21 February 2011 | 11:49:41 AM | Source: SBS Staff and agencies
In an address to the nation on state TV, Colonel Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has warned that his nation is on the brink of civil war.
Adding to claims from the prime minister, he said there were attempts to turn his country into a 'terrorist base', and that his father's regime 'will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet.'
He said the death toll had been exaggerated - some media outlets have put the number killed by police, troops, and even reported foreign mercenaries, as high as 200 - and that only 84 had died, although he expressed regret for those killed.
Gaddafi said the the People's Congress would discuss reform on Monday, but warned that civil war could be around the corner if protests did not end.
The speech came as anti-regime protests reached the capital and world powers denounced the iron-fisted crackdown. In a challenging scenario for foreign media, unable to report from the country, the BBC said there were clashes in the centre of the city between pro and anti-government elements. Unconfirmed reports on Twitter said late on Sunday night that protesters were holding the central square.
Amid rumours of his departure, the challenge to Gaddafi was mounting with reports which Al Jazeera said in a live blog had been backed up by witnesses, that anti-government protesters were effectively in control of the city of Benghazi.
Reports said that pro-Gaddafi militia in the city, centre of many of the killings of protesters, were 'being butchered.'
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi appeared to confirm that certain elements had taken hold of government troops and weaponry.B ut he said if violence continued, the situation may deteriorate towards a scenario which was worse than that seen in Iraq.
The news came amid unconfirmed reports that troops were joining in the protests in the city of Benghazi.
And in another significant crack in the regime's public face, Libya's envoy to the Arab League announced he was "joining the revolution", AFP reported.
"I have submitted my resignation in protest against the acts of repression and violence against demonstrators (in Libya) and I am joining the ranks of the revolution," Abdel Moneim al-Honi said.
Ironically, Libya currently holds the rotating presidency of the 22-member Arab League.
The network also reported that the Libyan ambassador to China had resigned live on air.
With the revolt in Libya widening, leader Muammar Qaddafi’s son went on state television to warn that a civil war would risk the country’s oil wealth and invite a return of colonial powers.
Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, in a broadcast carried on U.S. cable networks, said the Libyan army made errors in handling anti- government protests and that almost 100 people had been killed, less than half the toll compiled by Human Rights Watch. He also said that some demonstrators had captured military equipment.
Qaddafi said Libya is “not Tunisia and Egypt,” referring to the revolutions that toppled the leadership of those two countries. At the same time he promised to conduct a dialogue with the opposition and a national debate on the constitution.
In the most serious challenge to Qaddafi’s 41 years of rule in the country, thousands of people demonstrated yesterday in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city
They were met by gunfire from forces loyal to Qaddafi, Human Rights Watch said, citing reports from witnesses.
The U.S. has received “multiple credible reports that hundreds of people have been killed and injured” and delivered its “strong objections” to the use of lethal force against protesters, Philip J. Crowley, spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement.
U.K. Foreign Minister William Hague told Qaddafi’s son, Saif Qaddafi, in a call yesterday that the Libyan government’s actions “were unacceptable and would result in world-wide condemnation,” according to a Foreign Office statement.
Libya, holder of the largest crude oil reserves on the African continent, has become the focal point of region-wide protests ignited by the ouster of Tunisia’s president last month and energized by the fall of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak last week. Violence has flared in Yemen, Djibouti and Bahrain as governments sought to crack down on calls for reform.
Demonstrations also were reported yesterday in Iran and Morocco and analysts warned of the risk of unrest spreading to Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. Saudi Arabia neighbors Bahrain and has a Shiite Muslim minority population in the east, where most of its oil is produced.
Persian Gulf shares slumped, sending Dubai’s benchmark stock index down the most this month. Swap contracts for Saudi Arabia, used as a measure of confidence although the country has no debt to insure, jumped 11.5 basis points to 138 last week, the highest since July 2009.
At least 233 people have died in Libya with hundreds injured in clashes between Qaddafi’s forces and anti-government protesters since Feb. 16, New York-based Human Rights Watch said.
The U.S. issued a travel warning for Libya, citing “violent clashes” in six cities in the east of the country including Benghazi. Libya has barred international media and human rights groups, making the full extent of deaths and injuries unknown, Crowley said.
The demonstrations show signs of fracturing Qaddafi’s rule. Libya’s representative to the Arab League said he had resigned from his post and had “joined the popular revolution,” Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency reported yesterday.
AT Feb 21 (Reuters) - Following are highlights from an address on state TV by the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, on the unrest gripping Libya.
ON REPORTED DEATHS IN THE UNREST
"There were some planning errors. Errors from the police ... and the army that was not equipped and prepared to confront angry people and...to defend its premises, weapons and ammunition.
"Each party has its own version of the story...But the unfortunate bottom line is that sons of Libya have died. This is the tragedy."
ON THE DEMANDS OF PROTESTERS
He said he agreed with and understood the "clear political agenda and demands" by political organisations, trade unions and lawyers whom he said were behind the events in the east of Libya.
"These do not represent a problem. We understand and agree with their opinions."
ON PEOPLE HE BLAMED FOR THE UNREST
"They have started by attacking army camps, have killed soldiers, officers...and taken weapons".
"The security forces...have arrested dozens in Libya who unfortunately were among our brother Arabs and among the African expatriates...who were used in these events at these times to create problems...Some wealthy (businessmen) and tradesmen spent millions on them to use these people".
"There are groups that want to rule, there are groups that want to form the state in eastern Libya and rule...in Benghazi and Baida...
"There are groups that have formed a government in Benghazi and groups that have set up an Islamic emirate in Baida ... and another person who declared himself to be the ruler of the Islamic Republic of Darna".
"They now want to transform Libya into a group of (Islamic) emirates, small states and even (cause) separatism. They have a plot. Unfortunately, our brother Arabs (allowed) their media, their stations and the inflammatory coverage."