Tag Archives: Associated Press

In ‘Gun’ we Trust

Libyan regime says it is arming civilians, teaching them how to shoot

By Karin Laub, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

GAZAHIYA, Libya – A 22-year-old university student balanced an unloaded grenade launcher on his shoulder, grunted loudly in place of an explosion as he pulled the trigger, then handed the weapon to the next man.

The military drill on the lawn of a clinic in a remote village in government-controlled western Libya was part of what Moammar Gadhafi‘s regime has tried to portray as a large-scale arming and training of the home front. Foreign reporters on a government tour were also taken to a school where a couple of teenage boys fired Kalashnikov rifles in the air.

The scenes appeared to have been hastily arranged. Men at a desert shooting range — barrels set up as targets on a rocky plain — said they had been bused to the site for the first time that day. A few dozen middle school boys were participating in a military rally in their school yard and some said they had received their fatigues just a day earlier.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said last week that hundreds of thousands of rifles were being distributed to civilians to defend the home front, a claim that is impossible to verify because of tight restrictions on journalists in western Libya. About a dozen Libyans interviewed in three different areas recently said they had been handed Kalashnikovs from municipal weapons depots.

The reports that the government was arming supporters to suppress anti-regime demonstrations in the capital Tripoli first emerged at the start of the uprising against Gadhafi in mid-February. The government claims it is arming people to defend against foreign ground troops — even though there are none in western Libya — rather than to fight fellow Libyans.

However, the attempt to show civilians training with weapons could be a sign that Gadhafi loyalists are growing more nervous about their grip on western Libya. There has been persistent fighting in two major pockets of rebel resistance in that part of the country, including the coastal city of Misrata where rebels have held out during a two-month onslaught.

Those training Wednesday in the Tarhouna district, 70 kilometres (45 miles) southeast of the capital of Tripoli, seemed unsure of who their enemy was. Some struggled with whether they would shoot at fellow Libyans who have risen up against Gadhafi and now control the east of the country.

Volunteers said they had been told they must defend their homes against NATO ground troops, but would not be asked to go to the front. Some dismissed the rebels as al-Qaida-led ex-convicts or foreigners, repeating government propaganda that has tried to paint the rebels as Islamic extremists.

High school student Sanna Kanouni, 16, said she was learning how to handle a rifle to repel the “barbarian, colonial crusader aggression.” Asked what she knew about the rebels in the east, she said they are drug-taking foreigners, not Libyans — mimicking a line also put out by the government.

In her crammed classroom a lesson in taking apart a Kalashnikov was under way. Kanouni briefly fumbled with the weapons parts, gave up and pumped her fist to the pro-Gadhafi chants of her classmates.

Outside the high school, students posed with Kalashnikovs, some of them firing in the air.

High school students in Libya have traditionally received some weapons training, students and teachers at the school said, though they disagreed on the starting age of military training and on what exactly was involved.

At an elementary and middle school in the nearby village of Sagya, two dozen boys who appeared to be around 11 or 12 years old and were dressed in military fatigues participated in a pro-Gadhafi rally on the school grounds.

They briefly marched and stood at attention. Their principal, Abdel Razek Mahmoudi, said the boys had started marching drills two weeks ago, but were not touching guns.

However, 11-year-old Abdullah Rajab Iyad, said he’d been allowed to handle a gun earlier that day. The principal, overhearing the conversation, abruptly led the boy away.

Men in their 20s fired wildly into the air in the school yard, from amid the children. The program ended with a competition among about 20 men to see who was fastest at taking apart a Kalashnikov and putting it back together again.

Abdel Monem al-Muftah, who oversees the training of civilians in Tarhouna, said about 200 people each have been trained at 15 sites, ranging in age from 18 to 70.

On the clinic grounds in Gazahiya, several dozen men sat in circles, each group learning about a different weapon. The training seemed basic at best.

Mohammed Jumma, a 22-year-old computer science student, was handed a rocket-propelled grenade launcher without ammunition. The instructor told him to make sure no one was behind him before he fired — the weapon sends out a powerful backblast. He then corrected Jumma’s stance, left foot forward if the launcher is on the right shoulder.

Jumma pulled the trigger. The anticlimactic click that followed was not deemed satisfying, and he was asked to fire again, this time with a loud yell, before the launcher was handed to the next in line.

Moammar al-Ghrara, a 37-year-old Arabic teacher, said he would command a group of 40 men if the time came to defend the neighbourhood. Al-Ghrara refused to entertain the thought that the rebels were ordinary Libyans.

When pressed, he said he would shoot at anyone, including Libyans, if they attacked his area.

The heavy weapons were displayed at the desert shooting range. Four men in fatigues crouching on the ground fired heavy machine-guns toward barrels. Others fired off grenade launchers and an anti-aircraft gun, to the chants of “Allahu Akbar.”

Omar Musbah Omar, 23, said he has been training off and on for the past month, and that he and each of his four brothers had been given Kalashnikovs to keep at home. He said he would never raise a weapon against a fellow Libyan.

But, he said: “We’re ready for NATO.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-regime-says-arming-civilians-teaching-them-shoot-183128927.html


Pro-Gadhafi forces shell western city of Misrata for hours while NATO officials meet

By Karin Laub,Maggie Michael, The Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya – Troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi unleashed heavy shelling Friday on Misrata, pushing troops and tanks into the rebel-held western city, a witness said, while NATO officials struggled to overcome differences over its mission to dislodge the defiant Libyan leader.

Elsewhere in Libya, NATO warplanes struck Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte in the east, Libyan TV said. In the capital of Tripoli, there were reports of heightened security measures in an apparent attempt to prevent anti-government protests.

A helicopter circled over Misrata for several hours, apparently spotting targets for artillery in Libya’s third-largest city, in defiance of the NATO-enforced no-fly zone. Forces bombarded the city with fire from tanks, artillery and rockets.

Eight bodies of civilians were taken to a hospital but there are many causalities among the fighters who took guns and arms to defend their city, said the resident, who spoke on condition he be identified only by his given name, Abdel-Salam, for fear of retaliation.

The assault by Gadhafi forces was the heaviest in the 50-day-old siege of Misrata — the only major remaining rebel stronghold in western Libya.

His troops have continued to attack rebel positions as part of a deadlocked civil war sparked two months ago by anti-government protests. The international community stepped into the conflict a month ago, with NATO unleashing airstrikes on Gadhafi-linked military targets.

The latest attacks followed new shows of defiance by Gadhafi on Thursday and by his daughter, Aisha, who rallied a crowd early Friday from a balcony at her father’s compound that was hit by U.S. warplanes 25 years ago.

Libyan TV said airstrikes targeted Sirte, although it did not provide details. Explosions were also heard from what appeared to be NATO strikes against Gadhafi’s forces near the coastal town of Brega.

Gadhafi controls the west of the country, while the rebels hold much of the east, with the front shifting back and forth.

In the capital of Tripoli, participants in a Facebook group said snipers were deployed on rooftops in the Tajoura neighbourhood and that security was tight around mosques.

On Thursday, Al-Sadek al-Ghariani, a top Muslim cleric in Libya, said in a video posted on Facebook that it was a religious duty to join protests on Friday. In February, he issued two fatwas calling for anti-Gadhafi protests and then went into hiding. Gadhafi forces apparently are trying to find him.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/her-fathers-compound-bombed-25-years-ago-gadhafis-20110414-230254-105.html


Radioactive water leaks into ocean

By Eugene Hoshiko,Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated PressThe Canadian Press

RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan – Highly radioactive water spilled into the ocean from a tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant Saturday as Japan’s prime minister surveyed the damage in a town gutted by the wave.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex has been spewing radioactivity since March 11, when a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing wave knocked out power, disabling cooling systems and allowing radiation to seep out of the overheating reactors. Authorities said the leak they identified Saturday could be the source of radioactivity found in coastal waters in recent days.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan went to the plant and flew over the tsunami-ravaged coast soon after the wave hit, but Saturday was the first time he set foot in one of the pulverized towns.

Dressed in the blue work clothes that have become almost a uniform for officials, Kan stopped in Rikuzentakata, where the town hall is one of the few buildings still standing. All its windows are blown out and a tangle of metal and other debris is piled in front of it.

The prime minister bowed his head for a minute of silence in front of the building. He met with the town’s mayor, whose 38-year-old wife was swept away in the wave and is still missing. Officials fear about 25,000 people may have been killed, many of whose bodies have not been found.

“The government fully supports you until the end,” Kan later told 250 people at an elementary school that is serving as an evacuation centre.

Megumi Shimanuki, whose family is living in a similar shelter 100 miles (160 kilometres) away in Natori, said Kan didn’t spend enough time with people on the ground. Kan returned to Tokyo in the afternoon.

“The government has been too focused on the Fukushima power plant rather than the tsunami victims,” said Shimanuki, 35. “Both deserve attention.”

Saturday’s leak was from a newly discovered crack in a maintenance pit on the edge of the Fukushima complex, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said.

The crack was apparently caused by the quake and may have been leaking since then, said spokesman Osamu Yokokura of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the plant.

Measurements showed the air above the radioactive water in the pit contained more than 1,000 millisieverts per hour of radioactivity. Even just two feet (60 centimetres) away, that figure dropped to 400 millisieverts. Workers have taken samples of the water in the pit and seawater and are analyzing them to determine the level of contamination.

Radiation quickly disperses in both air and water, and experts have said that it would be quickly diluted by the vast Pacific Ocean, where even large amounts have little effect. TEPCO is trying to pour concrete to seal the 8-inch-long (20-centimetre-long) crack, spokesman Takashi Kurita said.

“This could be one of the sources of seawater contamination,” Nishiyama said. “There could be other similar cracks in the area, and we must find them as quickly as possible.”

Radioactive iodine-131 at concentrations higher than the legal limit was first detected in waters off the plant more than a week ago. Readings released Saturday showed radiation in seawater had spread to 25 miles (40 kilometres) south of the plant; the concentration of iodine there was twice the legal limit, but officials stressed it was still well below levels that are dangerous to human health.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether workers who have been rushing to bring the reactors under control were exposed. People living within 12 miles (20 kilometres) of the plant have been evacuated, and no fishing is taking place in the waters just off the plant.

Because of the evacuations, the plant workers have been the primary people exposed to the radiation leaks.

A worker fell into the ocean Friday while trying to board a barge carrying water to help cool the plant, the nuclear safety agency said Saturday. He was immediately plucked from the water and rinsed off, and he tested negative for skin contamination. He said he did not think he had swallowed any water, but officials are still waiting for test results to make sure he was not exposed to unsafe levels of radiation.

Another crew member described difficult conditions inside the complex in an interview published Saturday.

The plant has run out of the nylon protective booties that workers put over their shoes. Earlier, TEPCO acknowledged that the tsunami had destroyed many of the gauges used to measure radiation, forcing workers to share. More gauges have since arrived at the site.

“We only put something like plastic garbage bags you can buy at a convenience store and sealed them with masking tape,” said the worker, who spoke to the national Mainichi newspaper. Such interviews have been exceedingly rare and always anonymous.

The worker also said the tsunami littered the grounds with dead fish that remained scattered throughout the plant, attracting birds.

Radiation concerns have rattled the Japanese public, already struggling to return to normal life after the earthquake-generated tsunami. Three weeks later, more than 165,000 people are living in shelters, while 260,000 households still do not have running water and 170,000 do not have electricity.

People whose houses are within the evacuation zone are growing increasingly frustrated and some have been sneaking back in. Government officials warned Friday that there were no plans to lift the evacuation order anytime soon.

After the quake, Tadashi and Ritsuko Yanai and their 1-month-old boy fled their home, which is six miles (10 kilometres) from the plant. Baby Kaon has grown accustomed to life in a shelter, but his parents haven’t.

When asked if he had anything he would like to say to Kan, the 32-year-old father paused to think and then replied: “We want to go home. That’s all, we just want to go home.”

Thousands of families are also still awaiting news of their loved ones. More than 15,500 people are still missing.

U.S. and Japanese troops launched an all-out search of the coastline Friday for any remaining bodies in what could be their last chance to find those swept out to sea. They have found nearly 50 bodies since Friday, most floating in coastal waters. So far, 11,800 deaths have been confirmed.

Up and down the coast, helicopters, planes and boats carrying U.S. and Japanese troops scoured for the dead again Saturday.

Some bodies may have sunk and just now be resurfacing. Others may never be found.

Coast guard crews conducting similar searches rescued a dog Friday that was drifting on a rooftop. It took several hours to grab the dog because it initially scampered across other floating wreckage as crews winched down from a helicopter. It was unclear how long the dog had been at sea.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/japans-pm-visits-tsunami-hit-villages-us-japanese-20110401-211211-756.html


Hugo Chavez….Gadhafi’s only friend

Venezuela’s Chavez says US, NATO preparing for war in Libya, warns it would be madness

By Jorge Rueda, The Associated PressThe Canadian Press

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned Friday that it would be madness for the United States and its NATO allies to go to war in Libya to try to topple Moammar Gadhafi.

Chavez, a friend and ally of Gadhafi, criticized President Barack Obama for expressing support for the Libyan opposition.

“Right now they are preparing a war, the Yankees and their NATO allies,” Chavez said in a televised speech.

He predicted a larger war in Libya could push world oil prices to $200 a barrel, and he echoed Gadhafi’s warnings that a foreign military intervention would unleash much more bloodshed.

“If the Yankees (attempt) the madness of invading Libya — Gadhafi already said it a few days ago — it would be a new Vietnam,” Chavez said.

The Venezuelan president has proposed forming a “humanitarian commission” to travel to Libya to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

His stance has been echoed by Latin American allies including Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia. But other countries have dismissed Chavez’s mediation idea, and rebels in Libya have not expressed willingness to negotiate as long as Gadhafi remains in power.

Obama said Friday in Washington that the U.S. and the world community are “slowly tightening the noose” on Gadhafi. It was not clear what next steps Obama might be willing to take, but he said he was considering all options, including military efforts with NATO partners.

“Today I saw Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, saying that he’s concerned about the price of oil,” Chavez said.

Chavez has accused the U.S. of manoeuvring to seize control of Libya’s oil. He said he believes events in Libya are being distorted to lay the groundwork for a conflict, and likened it to the situation inVenezuela in 2002 when he survived a failed coup.

“In its desperation, the Yankee empire is continuing and will continue to threaten nations that struggle for their dignity … conspiring against governments,” Chavez said.

He said his proposal for a peace effort would respect “the self-determination and freedom of Libya, which is a sister nation.”

As for the conflict raging in Libya, Chavez said: “That’s a matter the Libyans should resolve.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/venezuelas-chavez-says-us-nato-preparing-war-libya-20110311-192809-608.html

 

 


Japan wakes up to scenes of destruction in aftermath of tsunami and quake

By Malcolm Foster, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

TOKYO – A ferocious tsunami unleashed by Japan’s biggest recorded earthquake slammed into its eastern coast Friday, killing hundreds of people as it carried away ships, cars and homes, and triggered widespread fires that burned out of control.

Hours later, the waves washed ashore on Hawaii and the U.S. West coast, where evacuations were ordered from California to Washington but little damage was reported. The entire Pacific had been put on alert — including coastal areas of South America, Canada and Alaska — but waves were not as bad as expected.

In northeastern Japan, the area around a nuclear power plant was evacuated after the reactor’s cooling system failed and pressure began building inside.

Police said 200 to 300 bodies were found in the northeastern coastal city of Sendai, the city in Miyagi prefecture, or state, closest to the epicenter. Another 178 were confirmed killed, with 584 missing. Police also said 947 people were injured.

The magnitude-8.9 offshore quake triggered a 23-foot (seven-meter) tsunami and was followed for hours by more than 50 aftershocks, many of them more than magnitude 6.0. In the early hours of Saturday, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck the central, mountainous part of the country — far from the original quake’s epicenter. It was not immediately clear if this latest quake was related to the others

Friday’s massive quake shook dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometre) stretch of coast, including Tokyo, hundreds of miles (kilometres) from the epicenter. A large section of Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in Miyagi, burned furiously into the night with no apparent hope of being extinguished, public broadcaster NHK said.

Koto Fujikawa, 28, was riding a monorail when the quake hit and had to pick her way along narrow, elevated tracks to the nearest station.

“I thought I was going to die,” Fujikawa, who works for a marketing company, said. “It felt like the whole structure was collapsing.”

Scientists said the quake ranked as the fifth-largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and was nearly 8,000 times stronger than one that devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month.

“The energy radiated by this quake is nearly equal to one month’s worth of energy consumption” in the United States, U.S. Geological Survey Scientist Brian Atwater told The Associated Press.

President Barack Obama pledged U.S. assistance following what he called a potentially “catastrophic” disaster. He said one U.S. aircraft carrier is already in Japan, and a second is on its way. A U.S. ship was also heading to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed, he added.

An American man working at one of the nuclear plants near the coast when the quake hit said the whole building shook and debris fell from the ceiling. Danny Eudy, 52, a technician employed by Pasedena, Texas-based Atlantic Plant Maintenance, and his colleagues escaped the building just as the tsunami hit, his wife told The Associated Press.

“He walked through so much glass that his feet were cut. It slowed him down,” said Pineville, Louisiana, resident Janie Eudy, who spoke to her husband by phone after the quake.

The group watched homes and vehicles be carried away in the wave and found their hotel mostly swept away when they finally reached it.

The government later ordered about 3,000 residents near that plant — in the city of Onahama — to move back at least two miles (three kilometres) from the plant. The reactor was not leaking radiation but its core remained hot even after a shutdown. The plant is 170 miles (270 kilometres) northeast of Tokyo.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency said pressure inside the reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant has risen to 1.5 times the level considered normal, and slightly radioactive vapour may be released to reduce the pressure.

The Defence Ministry said it had sent dozens of troops trained to deal with chemical disasters to the plant in case of a radiation leak.

Trouble was reported at two other nuclear plants, but there was no radiation leak at either of them.

Japan’s coast guard said it was searching for 80 dock workers on a ship that was swept away from a shipyard in Miyagi.

Even for a country used to earthquakes, this one was of horrific proportions because of the tsunami that crashed ashore, swallowing everything in its path as it surged several miles (kilometres) inland before retreating. The apocalyptic images on Japanese TV of powerful, debris-filled waves, uncontrolled fires and a ship caught in a massive whirlpool resembled scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie.

Large fishing boats and other vessels rode high waves ashore, slamming against overpasses or scraping under them and snapping power lines along the way. Upturned and partially submerged cars bobbed in the water. Ships anchored in ports crashed against each other.

The tsunami roared over embankments, washing anything in its path inland before reversing directions and carrying the cars, homes and other debris out to sea. Flames shot from some of the homes, probably because of burst gas pipes.

Waves of muddy waters flowed over farmland near Sendai, carrying buildings, some of them ablaze. Drivers attempted to flee. Sendai airport was inundated with thick, muddy debris that included cars, trucks, buses and even light planes.

Highways to the worst-hit coastal areas buckled. Telephone lines snapped. Train service in northeastern Japan and in Tokyo, which normally serve 10 million people a day, were suspended, leaving untold numbers stranded in stations or roaming the streets. Tokyo’s Narita airport was closed indefinitely.

In one town alone on the northeastern coast, Minami-soma, some 1,800 houses were destroyed or badly ravaged, a Defence Ministry spokeswoman said.

As night fell and temperatures hovered just above freezing, tens of thousands of people remained stranded in Tokyo, where the rail network was still down. The streets were jammed with cars, buses and trucks trying to get out of the city.

The city set up 33 shelters in city hall, on university campuses and in government offices, but many planned to spend the night at 24-hour cafes, hotels and offices.

Japanese automakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda halted production at some assembly plants in areas hit by the quake. One worker was killed and more than 30 injured after being crushed by a collapsing wall at a Honda Motor Co. research facility in northeastern Tochigi prefecture, the company said.

Jesse Johnson, a native of the U.S. state of Nevada who lives in Chiba, north of Tokyo, was eating at a sushi restaurant with his wife when the quake hit.

“At first it didn’t feel unusual, but then it went on and on. So I got myself and my wife under the table,” he told The Associated Press. “I’ve lived in Japan for 10 years, and I’ve never felt anything like this before. The aftershocks keep coming. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t know whether it’s me shaking or an earthquake.”

NHK said more than 4 million buildings were without power in Tokyo and its suburbs.

A large fire erupted at the Cosmo oil refinery in the city of Ichihara and burned out of control with 100-foot (30-meter) flames whipping into the sky.

“Our initial assessment indicates that there has already been enormous damage,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. “We will make maximum relief effort based on that assessment.”

He said the Defence Ministry was sending troops to the hardest-hit region. A utility aircraft and several helicopters were on the way.

Also in Miyagi prefecture, a fire broke out in a turbine building of a nuclear power plant, but it was later extinguished, said Tohoku Electric Power Co.

A reactor area of a nearby plant was leaking water, the company said. But it was unclear if the leak was caused by the tsunami or something else. There were no reports of radioactive leaks at any of Japan’s nuclear plants.

Jefferies International Ltd., a global investment banking group, estimated overall losses of about $10 billion.

Hiroshi Sato, a disaster management official in northern Iwate prefecture, said officials were having trouble getting an overall picture of the destruction.

“We don’t even know the extent of damage. Roads were badly damaged and cut off as tsunami washed away debris, cars and many other things,” he said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 2:46 p.m. quake was magnitude 8.9, the biggest to hit Japan since record-keeping began in the late 1800s and one of the biggest ever recorded in the world.

The quake struck at a depth of six miles (10 kilometres), about 80 miles (125 kilometres) off the eastern coast, the agency said. The area is 240 miles (380 kilometres) northeast of Tokyo. Several quakes hit the same region in recent days, including one measured at magnitude 7.3 on Wednesday that caused no damage.

A tsunami warning was extended to a number of areas in the Pacific, Southeast Asia and Latin America, including Japan, Russia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Chile. In the Philippines, authorities ordered an evacuation of coastal communities, but no unusual waves were reported.

Thousands fled homes in Indonesia after officials warned of a tsunami up to 6 feet (2 metres) high, but waves of only 4 inches (10 centimetres) were measured. No big waves came to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, either.

The first waves hit Hawaii about 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT). A tsunami about 7 feet (2.1 metres) high was recorded on Maui and a wave at least 3 feet (a meter) high was recorded on Oahu and Kauai. Officials warned that the waves would continue and could get larger.

Japan’s worst previous quake was a magnitude 8.3 temblor in 1923 in Kanto that killed 143,000 people, according to USGS. A 7.2-magnitude quake in Kobe in 1995 killed 6,400 people.

Japan lies on the “Ring of Fire” — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching around the Pacific where about 90 per cent of the world’s quakes occur, including the one that triggered the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 12 nations. A magnitude-8.8 temblor that shook central Chile in February 2010 also generated a tsunami and killed 524 people.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/major-tsunami-8-9-quake-devastates-japans-eastern-20110311-015219-970.html

 


US, allies edge closer toward formulating military options to halt violence against Libya

By Bradley Klapper,Matthew Lee, The Associated PressThe Canadian Press

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama warned Libya‘s leaders that the U.S. and its NATO allies are still considering military options in response to what he called “unacceptable” violence perpetrated by supporters of Moammar Gadhafi.

“I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Gadhafi. It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward. And they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place,” Obama said during remarks in the Oval Office Monday.

Libyan warplanes launched multiple airstrikes on opposition fighters in the second day of a government crackdown to thwart rebels advancing on Gadhafi’s stronghold in Tripoli.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said a military response was no more likely Monday than it was before the surge in violence. He said the U.S. and its partners are considering a wide variety of military actions, including a no-fly zone, but said deploying ground troops “is not top of the list at this point.”

Carney said the U.S. is also considering providing weapons to rebel forces, though he cautioned that there were still many unanswered questions about what groups comprise those forces. He said the U.S. is using diplomatic channels, as well as contacts in the business community and non-governmental organizations, to gather information about the opposition.

Obama said he has also authorized $15 million in humanitarian aid to help international and non-governmental organizations assist and evacuate people fleeing the violence in Libya. More than 200,000 people have fled the country, most of them foreign workers, creating a humanitarian crisis across the border withTunisia — another North African country in turmoil after an uprising in January that ousted its longtime leader.

Hundreds if not thousands of people have died since Libya’s uprising began, although tight restrictions on media make it nearly impossible to get an accurate tally.

The U.S. and United Nations have imposed sanctions on Gadhafi’s regime, and U.S. military forces have also moved closer to Libya’s shores to back up demands that Gadhafi step down.

Obama spoke alongside Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is in Washington for meetings.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/obama-us-nato-allies-still-considering-military-action-20110307-083347-439.html

 


Nighttime raids, disappearances spread fear in Libyan capital in crackdown against protests

By Maggie Michael, The Associated PressThe Canadian Press

TRIPOLI, Libya – The mourning tent was set up in Tripoli’s Fashloum neighbourhood to receive grieving friends and neighbours of a 56-year-old man shot to death by Moammar Gadhafi‘s militiamen a week ago. No one dared show up. Paying condolences to a slain protester is dangerous in the Libyan capital.

A wave of arrests, killings and disappearances has terrorized Tripoli in a deadly crackdown by Gadhafi’s regime as his opponents try to organize new protests Friday.

Bodies of people who vanished have been dumped in the street. Gunmen in SUVs have descended on homes in the night to drag away suspected protesters, identified by video footage of protests that militiamen have pored through to spot faces. Other militiamen have searched hospitals for wounded to take away.

Residents say they are under the watchful eyes of a variety of Gadhafi militias prowling the streets. They go under numerous names — Internal Security, the Central Support Force, the People’s Force, the People’s Guards and the Brigade of Mohammed al-Magarif, the head of Gadhafi’s personal guard — and they are all searching for suspected protesters.

“While you are speaking to me now, there are spies everywhere and people watching me and you,” one man said, cutting short a conversation with an Associated Press reporter visiting the Tripoli district of Zawiyat al-Dahman on Thursday.

Residents said calls for new protests to be held Friday after weekly Muslim prayers were being passed by word of mouth in several districts of the capital.

Whether crowds turn out will depend on the depth of fear among Gadhafi opponents. Friday could prove a test of the extent of Gadhafi’s control. The capital is crucial to the Libyan leader, his strongest remaining bastion after the uprising that began on Feb. 15 broke the entire eastern half of Libya out of his control and even swept over some cities in the west near Tripoli.

The clampdown in Tripoli has left some yearning for outside help. One 21-year-old in Zawiyat al-Dahman said residents were hoping for manpower to come from the opposition-held east. A Libyan writer in his 70s said he rejects “foreign intervention” in Libya’s upheaval — but wouldn’t mind a “a powerful strike” on Gadhafi’s headquarters to stop further bloodshed.

“There must be some sort of action as soon as possible. Time is running and Libyans can’t wait any longer,” the writer said.

He, like other residents, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear they too would be hunted down.

Last Friday, the residents of Fashloum, Tajoura and Souq al-Jomaa witnessed the price anti-Gadhafi protesters pay, when militiamen opened fire on demonstrators.

In Fashloum, worshippers emerged from the Al-Baz mosque and young men in the crowd began to march and chant, “Freedom toLibya.” Within moments, the barrage of gunfire from militiamen erupted, said a brother of the slain 56-year-old protester.

“My brother was hit with a bullet right in the heart. In minutes he lost all his blood,” he said, showing a mobile phone video clip of his brother’s body, with a hole in the chest.

While rushing to Tripoli’s central hospital, he found militia stationed in front of the building.

“Doctors at the hospital told me that they are taking the injured to underground rooms inside the hospital away from the militia,” said the brother, who is a doctor himself.

“During the burial, the militia was also there watching us,” he added.

The number of deaths across Tripoli last Friday is not confirmed. The brother gave the names of six people from Fashloum who were killed. He said other bodies of slain protesters that day were seen being loaded into cars by militiamen and have not been seen since. He said he knows families who are still searching for bodies of their loved ones.

Others were arrested later on. The brother said he knows a 37-year-old man who disappeared for several days afterward. Then his body was dumped in a street in Tripoli’s Abu Selim district.

In nearby Zawiyat al-Dahman, a similar protest came last Friday came under a shower of bullets. One man on Thursday pointed to a building where he said a young woman was shot dead while standing on her balcony.

“All people hate Gadhafi. This is a fact. But if anyone steps out, he is dead,” he said.

In an upper-class street of the same neighbourhood, a cafe owners said Tripoli residents are torn — they want change but also want safety.

“What I know for sure is that it is getting worse. What we are in right now is worse than what we had before. I don’t know what will the future look like,” he said. “The price people pay for change is very dear.”

In the embattled neighbourhood of Tajoura, a 31-year old protester showed the AP the houses of his two brothers, who were rounded up in a 3 a.m. raid on Wednesday.

He was on the roof of a nearby building, counting the militia vehicles: 15 white pickup trucks with People’s Guards license plates and two 4×4 Toyotas screeched up to the adjacent houses in a narrow, unpaved alley. They cordoned off the buildings, militiamen leaped over the buildings’ fences, froze the door locks off with a compressed substance in cans and broke in. They drove off with his 32- and 35-year-old brothers, whose whereabouts remains unknown, the protester said.

They were among 20 protesters rounded up in Tajoura at that same time, according to various residents.

“They call Tajoura ‘the terrorist neighbourhood’ because we dared to call for ousting Gadhafi,” the protester said.

In the home of one of the arrested men, clothes were left scattered around the living room, drawers were open and the TV was still on. The door was intact, but its lock was knocked out. In the bedroom, the mattress was overturned. The protester said money, jewelry and four mobile phones were also taken. Other young men from the family had already been arrested days earlier, he said.

Except for the barking dogs, the house was empty and still.

“We moved their families away from here. There is no way they can stay after what happened,” he said, adding that he and his fellow activists had also decided not to spend the night in their homes.

“This is the message to all Libyans: if you say you don’t want Gadhafi, this is what will happen to you,” he said.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/nighttime-raids-disappearances-spread-fear-libyan-capital-crackdown-20110303-122747-749.html

 

 

 


Libya protesters seize 2nd biggest city, clashes in capital as Gadhafi son warns of civil war

By Hamza Hendawi,Maggie Michael, The Associated PressThe Canadian Press

CAIRO – Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi on Monday, claiming control of the country’s second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli’s main square for the first time. Moammar Gadhafi‘s son vowed that his father and security forces would fight “until the last bullet.”

Protesters demanding Gadhafi’s ouster planed new marches in the capital’s main Green Square and at the leader’s residence for Monday evening. That was likely to bring a new round of violence after a similar march the night before prompted clashes that lasted till dawn, with witnesses reporting snipers opening fire on protesters and Gadhafi supporters racing through crowds in trucks and cars, firing automatic weapons and running people over.

During the day Monday, a fire was raging at the People’s Hall, the main hall for government gatherings where the country’s equivalent of a parliament holds its sessions several times a year, the pro-government news website Qureyna said. It also reported the first major sign of discontent in Gadhafi’s government, saying justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil resigned from his post to protest the “excessive use of force against unarmed protesters.”

The capital was largely shut down, with schools, government offices and most stores closed, as armed members of pro-government organizations called “Revolutionary Committees” circulated in the streets hunting for protesters in Tripoli’s old city, said one protester, named Fathi.

The protests and violence were the heaviest yet in the capital of 2 million people, a sign of how unrest was spreading after six days of demonstrations in eastern cities demanding the end of the elder Gadhafi’s rule.

Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, went on state TV late Sunday night, warning civil war will break out if protests continue, a theme continued Monday on Libyan state TV, where a pro-regime commentator spoke of chaos and “rivers of blood” turning Libya into “another Somalia” if security is not restored.

Gadhafi’s regime has unleashed the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country against the wave of protests sweeping the region, which toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. More than 200 have been killed in Libya, according to medical officials, human rights groups and exiled dissidents.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting neighbouring Egypt, called the Libyan government’s crackdown “appalling.”

“We can see what is happening in Libya which is completely appalling and unacceptable as the regime is using the most vicious forms of repression against people who want to see that country — which is one of the most closed and one of the most autocratic — make progress. The response they have shown has been quite appalling,” he told reporters in Cairo.

Fragmentation is a real danger in Libya, a country of deep tribal divisions and a historic rivalry between Tripoli and Benghazi. The Arab world’s longest ruling leader in power for nearly 42 years, Moammar Gadhafi has held an unquestioned grip over the highly decentralized system of government he created, called the “Jamahiriya,” or “rule by masses.”

Libya’s former ambassador to the Arab League in Cairo, Abdel-Moneim al-Houni, who a day earlier resigned from his post to side with protesters, issued a statement demanding Gadhafi “be put on trial along with his aides, security and military commanders over the mass killings in Libya.”

“Gadhafi’s regime is now in the trash of history because he betrayed his nation and his people,” al-Houni said.

The spiraling turmoil in Libya, an OPEC country that is a significant oil supplier to Europe, was raising international alarm. Oil prices jumped $1.67 to nearly $88 a barrel Monday amid investor concern.

Two leading oil companies, Statoil and BP, said they were pulling some employees out of Libya or preparing to do so. Portugal sent plane to pick up its citizens and other EU nationals and Turkey sent two ferries to pick up construction workers stranded in the unrest-hit country. EU foreign ministers were discussing on Monday the possible evacuation of European citizens. Mobs attacked South Korean, Turkish and Serbian construction workers at various sites around the country, officials from each country said.

The Internet has been largely shut down in Libya, residents can no longer make international calls from land lines and journalists cannot work freely, but eyewitness reports trickling out of the country suggested that protesters were fighting back more forcefully. Most witnesses and residents spoke on condition they be indentified by first name only or not at all, out of fear of retaliation.

In Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, protesters were in control of the streets Monday and took over the main security headquarters, known as the Katiba, after bloody clashes Sunday that killed at least 60 people, according to a doctor at the main hospital.

Cars honked their horns in celebration and protesters in the streets chanted “Long live Libya.” Protesters took down the Libyan flag from above Benghazi’s main courthouse and raised the flag of the country’s old monarchy, which was toppled in 1969 by the military coup that brought Moammar Gadhafi to power, according to witnesses and video footage posted on the Internet.

Benghazi’s airport was closed, according to an airport official in Cairo. A Turkish Airlines flight trying to land in Benghazi to evacuate Turkish citizens Monday was turned away, told by ground control to circle over the airport then to return to Istanbul.

There were fears of chaos as young men — including regime supporters — seized weapons from the Katiba and other captured security buildings. “The youths now have arms and that’s worrying,” said Iman, a doctor at the main hospital. “We are appealing to the wise men of every neighbourhood to rein in the youths.”

Youth volunteers were directing traffic and guarding homes and public facilities, said Najla, a lawyer and university lecturer in Benghazi. She and other residents said police had disappeared from the streets.

Benghazi has seen a cycle of bloody clashes over the past week, as security forces kill protesters, followed by funerals that turn into new protests, sparking new bloody shootings. After funerals Sunday, protesters fanned out, burning government buildings and police stations and besieging the Katiba.

Security forces battled back, at times using heavy-calibremachine-guns and anti-aircraft guns, according to residents. One witness said she saw bodies torn apart and that makeshift clinics were set up in the streets to treat the wounded. Ahmed Hassan, a doctor at the main Al-Jalaa hospital, said funerals were expected Monday for 20 of those killed the day before, but that families of 40 others were still trying to identify their loved ones because their bodies were too damaged.

In some cases, army units reportedly sided with protesters against security forces and pro-Gadhafi militias. Mohamed Abdul-Rahman, a 42-year-old Benghazi merchant, said he saw an army battalion chasing militiamen from a security compound.

After seizing the Katiba, protesters found the bodies of 13 uniformed security officers inside who had been handcuffed and shot in the head, then set on fire, said Hassan, the doctor. He said protesters believed the 13 had been executed by fellow security forces for refusing to attack protesters.

Protest leaders and army units that sided with them were working to keep order in the streets Monday, directing traffic and guarding homes and official buildings, several residents said.

On Sunday night, Gadhafi’s son Seif el-Islam — long seen as his likely successor — took to state TV, trying to take a tough line in a rambling and sometimes confused speech of nearly 40 minutes.

“We are not Tunisia and Egypt,” he said. “Moammar Gadhafi, our leader, is leading the battle in Tripoli, and we are with him.”

“The armed forces are with him. Tens of thousands are heading here to be with him. We will fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet,” he said.

He warned the protesters that they risked igniting a civil war in which Libya’s oil wealth “will be burned.” He also promised “historic” reforms in Libya if protests stop.

Seif has often been put forward as the regime’s face of reform. Several of the elder Gadhafi’s sons have powerful positions in the regime and in past years have competed for influence. Seif’s younger brother Mutassim is the national security adviser, with a strong role in the military and security forces, and another brother Khamis heads the army’s 32nd Brigade, which according to U.S. diplomats is the best trained and best equipped force in the military.

Even as Seif spoke, major clashes had broken out for the first time in Tripoli.

Sunday afternoon, protesters from various parts of the city began to stream toward central Green Square, chanting “God is great,” said one 28-year-old man who was among the marchers.

In the square, they found groups of Gadhafi supporters, but the larger number of protesters appeared to be taking over the square and surrounding streets, he and two other witnesses said. That was when the backlash began, with snipers firing down from rooftops and militiamen attacking the crowds, shooting and chasing people down side streets. they said.

Gadhafi supporters in pickup trucks and cars raced through the suqare, shooting automatic weapons. “They were driving like mad men searching for someone to kill. … It was total chaos, shooting and shouting,” said the 28-year-old.

The witnesses reported seeing casualties, but the number could not be confirmed. One witness, named Fathi, said he saw at least two he believed were dead and many more wounded.

After midnight, protesters took over the main Tripoli offices of two state-run satellite stations, Al-Jamahiriya-1 and Al-Shebabiya, one witness said.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyans-benghazi-mass-another-day-protests-internet-cut-20110220-011501-490.html

 

 


“We are not traitors”

Youthful leader freed from detention energizes Egyptian protests with arrival in square

By The Associated PressThe Canadian Press

CAIRO – A massive crowd of anti-government protesters poured into Cairo‘s Tahrir Square again Tuesday, joined for the first time by a young leader of the campaign the day after he was released from detention and wept through a televised interview where he declared: “We are not traitors.”

The tens of thousands standing should-to-shoulder, one of the biggest crowds so far, gave a resounding answer to the question of whether they still had the momentum to go on even though two weeks of streets fights and sit-ins have not achieved their singular goal of ousting entrenched President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country for 30 years.

Many said they were inspired by Wael Ghonim, the 30-year-old Google Inc. marketing manager who was a key organizer of the online campaign that sparked the first protest on Jan. 25. Straight from his release from 12 days of detention, Ghonim gave an emotionally charged television interview, sobbing at times over those who have been killed. He dubbed the protests “the revolution of the youth of the Internet.”

Fifi Shawqi, a 33-year-old upper-class housewife who came with her three daughters and her sister to the Tahrir protest for the first time, said Ghonim inspired her.

“I saw Wael yesterday (in the interview) and I cried. I felt like he is my son and all the youth here are my sons,” she said. “I think Wael brought many, many more.”

Others in the crowd said they too were joining for the first time.

Ghonim has emerged as a rallying point for protesters, who reject a group of traditional Egyptian opposition groups that have met with the government amid the most sweeping concessions the regime has made in its three decades in power.

The protesters are insisting that no concessions will do unless Mubarak steps down.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/white-house-steers-clear-predicting-mubarak-step-down-20110207-013957-771.html