Libya’s Kadhafi under siege as cities overrun


These dictators who have oppressed and preyed on their people, as well as robbed their respective countries of most of the wealth need to be abolished; once and for all: Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, Bahrain’s Al Khalifa monarchy,  Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Cuba’s Fidel and Raul Castro and many others – all need to get ousted from power. Now is the time for the people of these countries to unite, stand up and fight for their freedom. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Protesters overran several Libyan cities on Monday and regime stalwarts started defecting as the pillars of Moamer Kadhafi’s hardline four-decade rule began to crumble.

A suggestion in Brussels by British Foreign Secretary William Hague that Kadhafi may have left the country for Venezuela was swiftly denied by Caracas, home to the embattled Libyan leader’s firebrand ally President Hugo Chavez.

Two Libyan fighter pilots — both colonels — flew their single-seater Mirage F1 jets to Malta and said they had defected after being ordered to attack protesters in Benghazi, Maltese military and official sources told AFP.

Malta is the closest European state to Libya, just 340 kilometres (211 miles) north of its coastline.

Italy put all military air bases on maximum alert after the fighters landed, ANSA news agency reported.

Several Libyan diplomats at the United Nations joined calls for Kadhafi to quit, US media reported, with deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi telling CNN Kadhafi has “declared war” on the Libyan people and is committing “genocide.”

Benghazi, Libya’s second city and an opposition stronghold in the east, fell to anti-regime demonstrators after military units deserted, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) reported earlier.

Gunfire also rattled in the capital Tripoli on Monday, where protesters attacked police stations and the offices of the state broadcaster, Kadhafi’s mouthpiece, and set government buildings ablaze.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon told Kadhafi in a phone call that the violence “must stop immediately” and called for a broad-based dialogue, a UN spokesman said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also condemned the “unacceptable use of force” and called for an “immediate halt” to the violence.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, on a surprise visit to Libya’s eastern neighbour Egypt, where long-time president Hosni Mubarak was swept out on February 11 by a tide of people power, also slammed the violence.

“The violence, the brutality, that has got to stop, that is completely unacceptable,” he told Britain’s ITV news.

Hague said Kadhafi may be en route to Venezuela, citing “information that suggests he is on his way,” but a Venezuelan official who asked not to be identified retorted: “It’s not true.”

US President Barack Obama was “considering all appropriate actions” as Washington ordered all non-essential staff out of Libya and warned Americans to avoid travel to the north African country.

Libyan state television said security forces were battling “dens of terrorists” in a sweep that has killed a number of people, without specifying where or who was being targeted.

State television reported that Kadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, had set up a commission to probe “the sad events,” and that it would include “members of Libyan and foreign rights organisations.”

He had already appeared on television overnight to warn of looming civil conflict.

“Libya is at a crossroads. If we do not agree today on reforms… rivers of blood will run through Libya,” he said in a bellicose but rambling speech that also betrayed a hint of desperation.

“We will take up arms… we will fight to the last bullet. We will destroy seditious elements. If everybody is armed, it is civil war, we will kill each other… Libya is not Egypt, it is not Tunisia.”

IFHR head Souhayr Belhassen said protesters had control of Benghazi, Sirte, Tobruk in the east, as well as Misrata, Khoms, Tarhounah, Zenten, Al-Zawiya and Zouara, closer to the capital.

Witnesses in Sirte denied that Kadhafi’s coastal hometown was under the control of protesters, but others in Al-Zawiya told AFP that police had fled that city.

The IFHR said that besides soldiers and diplomats, other senior regime officials had also defected, demanding that Kadhafi step down after more than 41 years in power.

It said the protests had resulted in up to 400 deaths. Human Rights Watch earlier cited a death toll of 233.

Protesters overnight torched branches of the People’s Committees that are the mainstay of Kadhafi’s regime, witnesses told AFP.

“Protesters burned and ransacked the ministry of interior building,” in central Tripoli, one witness told AFP by email.

Heavy gunfire erupted in central Tripoli and other city areas for the first time since the uprising began in eastern Libya, witnesses and an AFP journalist reported.

“It’s definitely the end of the regime. This has never happened in Libya before. We are praying that it ends quickly,” a resident of a east Tripoli told AFP in Cairo by telephone.

Seif al-Islam Kadhafi, 38, who holds no formal post but wields vast influence as heir apparent, also suggested that Benghazi was out of government control.

“At this moment there are tanks being driven by civilians in Benghazi,” he said, insisting that the uprising was aimed at installing Islamist rule and would be ruthlessly crushed.

Libya’s justice minister, Mustapha Abdeljalil, resigned in objection to “the excessive use of force” against demonstrators, the Quryna newspaper website reported.

In Cairo, Libya’s Arab League envoy said he too had stepped down to “join the revolution.”

Tripoli’s ambassador to Delhi also quit, as did a diplomat in Beijing, Al-Jazeera television reported.

Oil prices soared above $105 per barrel on the turmoil, and the Fitch agency downgraded Libya’s debt rating a notch from BBB+ to BBB.

British energy giant BP said it was preparing to evacuate some staff from Libya, which holds Africa’s biggest oil reserves, and French oil giant Total said it was repatriating most of its expatriate employees and their families.

Other European governments and firms also scrambled to evacuate their citizens.

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