Gaddafi threatens house to house purge

2011-02-22 22:22

Tripoli - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Tuesday ordered his forces to crush an uprising that has rocked his 41-year rule, warning armed protesters they will be executed and vowing to fight to his last.

In a defiant, sometimes rambling speech on television, Gaddafi vowed to remain in Libya as head of its revolution, saying he would die as a martyr in the land of his ancestors and fight to the "last drop" of his blood.

Proclaiming the support of the people, Gaddafi ordered the army and police to crush the popular uprising against his iron-fisted four-decade rule that has already left hundreds dead in the past eight days.

He threatened to purge Libya "house by house" and "inch by inch".

In the live speech, the 68-year-old former army colonel said, "Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of a revolution; Muammar Gaddafi has no official position in order for him to resign. He is the leader of the revolution forever."

"This is my country, my country," he shouted, in a roughly 75-minute speech consisting of short, angry bursts of words, which he punctuated by shaking his fist or pointing his finger.

Despite widespread reports that army, police and militias had killed unarmed demonstrators indiscriminately over the past week, Gaddafi said "we have not yet used force".

People are with me

However, he said "if the situation worsens we will use it in line with international law and Libya's constitution".

"The Libyan people are with me," he said, calling on them to demonstrate from Wednesday. "Capture the rats," he said of anti-regime demonstrators.

"Go out of your homes and storm them" wherever they are.

"Any Libyan who carries arms against Libyans will be punished by death," he thundered, while threatening tough action in line with what he said had been done against insurgents in Moscow and Iraq and freedom protesters in Beijing.

Despite his show of defiance, Gaddafi's grip on Libya appeared increasingly shaky as ambassadors quit and fighter pilots defected, flying to Malta where they said they had refused to follow orders to fire on protesters.

His sense of isolation was being underlined at a meeting of the UN Security Council meeting, called after Libyan diplomats who have broken ranks from him called for a UN no-fly zone over the country and humanitarian action.

The session marked the first time that the world's most powerful nations have gathered at UN headquarters to discuss the Arab uprisings.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, the Libyan deputy ambassador who has called for Gaddafi to stand down and sent the letter demanding Tuesday's meeting, said "we are expecting something to protect the Libyan people" to be decided by the council.

Shocking

Talking to reporters as he went into the meeting, Germany's UN Ambassador Peter Wittig said that "the scale of violence by the Libyan security forces against peaceful demonstrators is really shocking".

Although government restrictions have complicated the task of compiling a tally, Human Rights Watch said 233 had been killed in the uprising while the International Federation for Human Rights put the toll at between 300 and 400.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the authorities should immediately stop using violence, adding that "widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity".

There have been widespread reports by witnesses that the air force has been strafing protesters, and Pillay said an independent inquiry was needed.

After flaring up in the east last week, the uprising spread to the capital on Monday, where protesters attacked police stations and the offices of the state broadcaster and set government buildings ablaze.

Residents of two districts in Tripoli said by telephone there had been "a massacre", with gunmen "firing indiscriminately" in Tajura district.

Another in Fashlum said helicopters had landed what he called African mercenaries who opened fire on anyone in the street, killing many people.

Terrified expatriates were hunkered down with their families awaiting evacuation.

Forces pillaging

France said it was sending three air force planes to Tripoli to evacuate its nationals and Britain announced plans to send both a charter flight and to deploy a Royal Navy frigate to help evacuate citizens caught up in unrest.

Souhayr Belhassen, head of the International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR), quoted witnesses as saying militias and security forces loyal to Gaddafi were "breaking down doors and pillaging" to quell the revolt.

"It is impossible to remove the corpses from the road; we are shot at from above," one witness was quoted as telling a Libyan rights group.

On Monday, witnesses in Tripoli reported massacres in certain neighbourhoods of the capital after Libyan television announced that security forces were assaulting "dens of terrorists".

But Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam, quoted on television, denied reports the armed forces had bombarded the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi to the east, after al-Jazeera television reported raids in the capital.

The Arab League said in a statement Tuesday it has barred Libya from attending its meetings until Tripoli responds to the demands of anti-regime protesters, following clashes that have killed hundreds.

The League has decided to "stop the government of Libya from participating in meetings of the Arab League and all bodies affiliated to it, until the Libyan authorities respond to demands, guaranteeing the security and stability of its people," it said.

Read more on:    muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  libya protests  |  north africa  |  uprisings
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