Thursday, February 24, 2011

Libyan leader blames al-Qaeda for uprising - incident2day

LIBYAN LEADER Muammar Gadafy has blamed al-Qaeda for the unrest which is threatening his regime of more than 40 years.

“It is obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaeda,” he asserted in response to a statement of support from the network’s north African franchise. He said that young people staging the uprising are being manipulated by al-Qaeda and reiterated a claim made on Tuesday that they were on drugs. He warned that the organisers of the rebellion would be prosecuted in the country’s courts and scolded parents for failing to keep their children at home.

Col Gadafy said Libyans had “no reason to complain” about their lives – unlike Tunisians and Egyptians who overthrew their rulers – and argued that the people exercised political power in Libya and he was only a “symbolic” fixture like Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. He said if Libyans do not return to work, “the flow of oil will stop”. Before the broadcast, Libyan state television announced that he would deliver his address from Zawiya, a city near oil export facilities and refineries. But that city was engulfed in clashes between pro- and anti-government forces throughout the day. He did not appear and spoke on the phone from an undisclosed location.

Helicopter gunships firing missiles and loyal troops of the Hamza brigade armed with heavy machine guns attacked a mosque in Zawiya during the morning – bringing down the minaret, killing 10 and wounding 150 rebels. During subsequent fighting, forces loyal to Col Gadafy were said to have been routed.

While Tripoli remained largely locked down, pro-Gadafy militia- men and African mercenaries raided homes, making arrests, and took bodies from hospital morgues. However, Col Gadafy’s hold on cities and towns around the capital came under challenge. In addition to the clashes in Zawiya, 45km to the south, demonstrations erupted in Zuwarah, 120km west of Tripoli near the Tunisian border and fighting took place at Sabratha near Tripoli and Sabha in the south. Gadafy’s for- ces launched an offensive on rebel-controlled Misrata, east of Tripoli.

The southern oil fields were said to be under rebel control and production has stopped.

Col Gadafy’s second son, Saif al-Islam, appeared on TV to accuse “Arab brothers” of mounting a “conspiracy” against the regime and asked Egypt not to join. He claimed “life in Tripoli is normal” and invited journalists and human rights organisations to visit and see for themselves. But government offices, schools and businesses remained closed while grocery shops and bakeries were open only for a few hours. Prices of staples have trebled and petrol is in short supply.

On arrival in Cairo, a close aide and cousin of Col Gadafy, Ahmad Qadaf al-Dam, said he had defected because the crackdown has involved “grave violations of human rights and international law”.

In Benghazi, epicentre of the revolt, elders have established committees to run the city and to interrogate captured “mercenaries” from southern Libya and sub-Saharan Africa who fought on the regime’s side. Regular army soldiers stationed in the east have joined the revolt but in some cities under rebel rule pro-Gadafy militiamen are said to roam the streets at night.

At a meeting of tribal elders in rebel-held Bayda, former minister of justice Mustafa Abul Jalil said: “No negotiation, no solution, until Gadafy and his sons leave.” Weapons captured from pro-Gadafy forces are being distributed in the battle for Tripoli.

In an interview with a Swedish newspaper, Mr Abu Jalil also said Col Gadafy had ordered the 1988 bombing of a US civilian airliner that exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing 270 people.

Opposition parties in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco issued a joint statement calling on their governments to intervene to halt the crackdown in Libya. “It is a genuine extermination effort that has been unleashed. We must . . . stop this massacre.”

Thousands of Tunisians have fled to their homeland in the west while in the east 20,000, mainly Egyptians, have crossed the border into Egypt over the past two days. The bodies of three Egyptians killed in clashes were repatriated.


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