Tag Archives: Tripoli

NATO chief says alliance will finish job in Libya

By Nick Carey | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – NATO‘s chief on Thursday slapped down a call from Italy for a suspension of hostilities in Libya and tried to reassure wavering members of the Western coalition that Muammar Gaddafi can be beaten.

Italy’s ceasefire call exposed the strain on the NATO alliance, nearly 14 weeks into a bombing campaign that has so far failed to dislodge Gaddafi but is causing mounting concerns about its financial cost and about civilian casualties.

Highlighting the wider consequences of the war in the North African oil-producer, oil-consuming nations announced a rare move to release reserves from oil stockpiles to fill the gap left by disruption to Libyan output.

Asked about Italy’s ceasefire call, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a newspaper interview: “No, on the contrary. We shall continue and see it through to the end.”

“The allies are committed to making the necessary effort for a sustained operation,” he told France’s Le Figaro newspaper.

“We will take the time needed until the military objective is reached: end all attacks against Libyan civilians, return armed forces to barracks and freedom of movement for humanitarian aid.”

NATO says it is operating under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces as he tries to crush an uprising against his 41-year rule. Gaddafi says NATO’s real aim is to steal the country’s plentiful oil.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Libyan leader’s ability to hold out was being steadily worn down, so now was not the moment to relax the pressure on him.

“Time is on our side, time is not on the side of Colonel Gaddafi,” Cameron said on a visit to the Czech capital. “So we need to be patient and persistent.”

NATO said it had delivered a blow to Gaddafi forces near Zlitan, a town about 170 km (105 miles) east of Tripoli, with an air and naval strike on Wednesday that took out 13 armed vehicles, an armored personnel carrier and a rocket launcher.

NATO CRACKS

At the weekend, NATO acknowledged for the first time in the campaign that it may have caused multiple civilian casualties, when an air strike hit a house in Tripoli, prompting a vitriolic attack from Gaddafi in an audio speech broadcast late Wednesday.

“You said, ‘We hit our targets with precision’, you murderers!” he said. “One day we will respond to you likewise and your homes will be legitimate targets.”

Libyan officials in Tripoli took reporters to the central Green Square where a crowd of around 200 people, most of them women waving green flags or pictures of Gaddafi, had gathered to demonstrate their support.

“We love our leader. We want him to stay in this country,” said one woman, who gave her name as Budur.

There was though a note of discord. As the reporters were guided back to their bus by government minders, a man shouted out of his car window: “Gaddafi go down!”

FORCES STRETCHED

Time is now a crucial factor for both sides in the conflict, with unity in the NATO-led coalition likely to come under more strain and Gaddafi’s ability to resist being steadily worn down by sanctions, air strikes and fighting with rebels.

In Paris, the 28-member International Energy Agency said it would release 60 million barrels a day over an initial 30 days to fill the gap left by the disruption to Libya’s output.

Libya was exporting about 1.2 million bpd before the rebellion that brought its oil industry to a standstill.

“This supply disruption has been underway for some time and its effect has become more pronounced as it has continued,” said the IEA. “Greater tightness in the oil market threatens to undermine the fragile global economic recovery.”

In a sign that Gaddafi’s military is being stretched, a Reuters photographer in rebel-held Al Qalaa saw about 50 navy servicemen being held prisoner in a police station.

They said their commanders had told them they were being deployed to protect the region from attack by al Qaeda, and they were later captured by the rebels.

The conflict has effectively partitioned Libya. The eastern third around the city of Benghazi is in rebels hands while the West — apart from some rebel enclaves — is controlled by Gaddafi. There is almost no movement between the two.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had begun an operation to transfer people back home who had been trapped on the wrong side of the civil war divide.

It said a ship would take several hundred from Tripoli to Benghazi, and about 110 were due to travel the other way.

“Most of the people we are transferring are Libyans who were working away from their home towns or visiting relatives or friends when the conflict broke out,” said Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Tripoli.

“They are very eager to rejoin their families.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/nato-chief-tries-repair-cracks-over-libya-095345120.html


Europe and U.S. step up pressure on Gaddafi to go

By Michael Georgy and James Mackenzie | Reuters

TRIPOLI/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe and the United States stepped up diplomatic pressure on Muammar Gaddafi to quit, while on the ground his forces used their superior strength to press their advantage against rebels.

President Barack Obama said on Friday the United States and its allies were “tightening the noose” around Gaddafi and European Union leaders meeting in Brussels said they would consider all options to force the Libyan leader to step down.

However, the 27 leaders meeting in Brussels stopped short of endorsing air strikes, a no-fly zone or other military-backed means to achieve that goal. Libyan rebels said their three-week-old insurrection could fail without a no-fly zone.

The summit sidestepped a British and French initiative for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize a no-fly zone.

They also would not back French President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s call to follow his lead and recognize the National Libyan Council as the country’s legitimate authority, or his call for “defensive” air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces if they used chemical weapons or warplanes against civilians.

Libya suspended diplomatic relations with France.

Obama, accused by critics of reacting too slowly, told a news conference he believed international sanctions, an arms embargo and other measures already in place were having an impact but also said a no-fly zone remained an option.

“Across the board we are slowly tightening the noose on Gaddafi. He is more and more isolated internationally,” he said. “I have not taken any options off the table.”

Soon after he spoke, the Treasury Department said it had extended a freeze on assets to Gaddafi’s wife, four of his sons and four senior officials in his government.

TANKS AND AIR POWER

Gaddafi’s forces, with air supremacy and a big advantage in tanks, appeared to be maintaining the momentum on the ground.

The sound of explosions and small arms fire came from the oil port of Ras Lanuf on Friday as government troops landed from the sea, backed by tanks and air power.

Rebels had advanced to the town of Bin Jawad about 60 km (38 miles) west of Ras Lanuf a week ago, but have been driven back across the strip of desert and scrub. Though out-gunned, they have kept up stiff resistance.

“Ras Lanuf is a ghost town. There are skirmishes between rebels and Gaddafi forces going back and forth,” said rebel captain Mustafa al-Agoury, adding that rebels were positioned on the east and Gaddafi’s forces on the west of the town.

Neither side had full control. Libyan state television said the town was cleared of “armed gangs” opposed to Gaddafi and a spokesman for the rebel movement, Hamid al-Hasi, told Al Arabiya that Ras Lanuf was back in rebel hands.

Gaddafi’s warplanes were carrying out air strikes seemingly unhindered by insurgent anti-aircraft guns mounted on pick-up trucks.

Many rebels were angry at international inaction.

“Where is the West? How are they helping? What are they doing,” shouted one angry fighter.

In Tripoli, Libyan security forces used teargas and fired in the air to disperse worshippers near a mosque before they could even attempt any protest, a Libyan man said, citing witnesses.

It was impossible to verify reports about what was happening in the Tajoura district of Tripoli because foreign journalists were prevented from reporting from the area and local anti-Gaddafi activists were not answering phone calls.

The revolt in Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli and held by rebels for days against fierce attacks, appeared to have been crushed.

Foreign journalists brought to the city center by government forces on Friday saw buildings scorched, patches of fresh paint and loyalists chanting “I love Gaddafi.”

HOTEL BURNED OUT

A hotel on the square that had been the rebel command center stood burned out, now guarded by Gaddafi militiamen. Facades not covered by large cloths were pockmarked by bullets from days of battles around the space the rebels called Martyrs’ Square.

“There were bad guys inside. There were 35-40 guys there yesterday with Kalashnikovs and big guns,” said Waleed, one militiaman, pointing toward the building’s ruined facade.

“We cannot live without Gaddafi. He is the king of Africa, not just Libya.”

The only town holding out in western Libya was Misrata, about 200 km (125 miles) east of Tripoli. It was calm on Friday, but rebels said they were expecting an attack in the near future.

Libya’s insurgent leader said any delay in imposing a no-fly zone could let Gaddafi regain control.

“We ask the international community to shoulder their responsibilities,” Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Libyan Council, told the BBC.

“The Libyans are being cleansed by Gaddafi’s air force. We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one, we also want a sea embargo,” he said.

About 15,000 worshippers gathered outside the courthouse that has become the council’s headquarters in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

“Help us to become a democratic country,” said one banner strung between lampposts and written in English and Arabic.

The Arab League will discuss the no-fly zone and the idea of extending formal recognition to the rebels at a meeting on Saturday, but experts said divisions among them will likely preclude agreement, disappointing the EU which had been looking to the grouping to help guide their next steps.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/million-libyans-aid-uk-france-seek-no-fly-20110307-195811-643.html

 


Gaddafi launches counter-offensive on Libyan rebels

By Maria Golovnina and Michael Georgy | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi vowed to die in Libya as a martyr in an angry television address on Tuesday, as rebel troops said eastern regions had broken free from his rule in a burgeoning revolt.

“I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television, refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters clamoring in the streets for an end to his four decades at the helm.

“I shall remain here defiant,” said Gaddafi.

Earlier, witnesses streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and mercenaries in an effort to stamp out the growing rebellion.

In the eastern city of Tobruk, a Reuters correspondent there said sporadic blasts could be heard, the latest sign that Gaddafi’s grip on the oil and gas exporting nation was weakening.

“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.

The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.

The U.N. refugee agency meanwhile urged Libya’s neighbors to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression and popular revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

On the Libyan side of the border with Egypt, anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles welcomed visitors. One man held an upside-down picture of Gaddafi defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans,” a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.

Hundreds of Egyptians flowed in the opposite direction on tractors and trucks, taking with them harrowing tales of state violence and banditry.

In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.

“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.

Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.

“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.

Human Rights Watch said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead. Opposition groups put the figure far much higher. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.

The revolt in Libya, the third largest oil producer in Africa, has driven oil prices to a 2 1/2 year high above $108 a barrel, and OPEC said it would produce more crude if supplies from member Libya were disrupted.

With no end in sight to the crisis, refugees fled to Egypt.

“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on February11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

Groups of rebels with assault rifles and shotguns, waved cheerily at the passing cars on a stretch of desert road, flicking the V-for-victory sign and posing with their guns, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Libyan security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi. Tripoli’s envoy to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned and told Reuters that African mercenaries had been recruited to help put down protests.

“The fall of Gaddafi is the imperative of the people in streets,” he said. The justice minister also quit and a group of army officers urged soldiers to “join the people.” Two pilots flew their warplanes to nearby Malta.

DEFIANCE AND CONDEMNATION

Gaddafi’s son Saif on Sunday vowed his father would keep fighting “until the last man standing” and the Libyan leader appeared on television after days of seclusion to dismiss reports he had fled to the Venezuela of his ally Hugo Chavez.

“I want to show that I’m in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” said Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a mixture of populism and tight control since taking power in a military coup in 1969.

World powers have condemned the use of force against protesters, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Libya of firing on civilians from warplanes and helicopters. The Security Council met in closed session to discuss Libya.

Washington and Europe have demanded an end to the violence and Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “A ruling family, threatening its people with civil war, has reached the end of the line.”

Demonstrations spread to Tripoli from the second city Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that has engulfed a number of towns and which residents say is now in the hands of protestors.

Residents said anxious shoppers were queuing outside stores to try to stock up on food and drink. Some shops were closed.

Spain’s Repsol suspended all operations in Libya and sources said operations at cargo ports at Benghazi, Tripoli and Misurata had shut due to the violence.

Trade sources said Libyan oil port operations had also been disrupted and others said gas supplies from Libya to Italy had slowed since Late Monday, though Italy said they had not yet been interrupted..

Shell said it was pulling out its expatriate staff from Libya temporarily and a number of states were seeking to evacuate their nationals.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html


Libyan rebels push west as Gaddafi receives crimes warning

By Mohammed Abbas | Reuters

AL-UQAYLA, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan rebels pushed west on Thursday, extending their grip on a key coast road as Muammar Gaddafi received a warning he would be held to account at The Hague for suspected crimes by his security forces.

Venezuela said the Libyan leader had agreed to its proposal for an international commission to negotiate an end to the turmoil in the world’s 12th largest oil exporting nation.

But Gaddafi’s son Saif al Islam said there was no need for any foreign mediation in the crisis, a leader of the uprising rejected talks with the veteran leader, and the Arab League said cautiously the plan was “under consideration.”

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France and Britain would support the idea of setting up a no-fly zone over Libya if Gaddafi’s forces continued to attack civilians.

President Barack Obama said the United States and the international community must be ready to act rapidly to stop violence against civilians or a humanitarian crisis in Libya.

The uprising, the bloodiest yet against a long-serving ruler in the Middle East or North Africa, has torn through the OPEC-member country and knocked out nearly 50 percent of its 1.6 million barrels per day output, the bedrock of its economy.

In eastern Libya, witnesses said a warplane bombed Brega the oil terminal town 800 km (500 miles) east of Tripoli, for the second day, part of a struggle for control of a strategically vital coast road and oil industry facilities.

Warplanes also launched two raids against the nearby rebel-held town of Ajbadiya, witnesses said.

“CIVILIAN AREAS NOT BOMBED”

But Juma Amer, Secretary for African Affairs at the Libyan Foreign Ministry, told journalists: “Media reports that civilian areas were bombed are false. Police had been and are urged to use maximum self restraint.”

Saif said Brega was bombed to scare off militia fighters and to gain control of oil installations.

“First of all the bombs (were) just to frighten them to go away,” he told Britain’s Sky News.

On the ground, rebels leading the unprecedented popular revolt pushed their front line west of Brega.

They said they had driven back troops loyal to Gaddafi to Ras Lanuf, site of another major oil terminal and 600 km (375 miles) east of Tripoli.

They also said they had captured a group of mercenaries.

In an angry scene at al-Uqayla, east of Ras Lanuf, a rebel shouted at a captured young African and alleged mercenary: “You were carrying guns, yes or no? You were with Gaddafi’s brigades yes or no?”

The silent youth was shoved onto his knees into the dirt. A man held a pistol close to the boy’s face before a reporter protested and told the man the rebels were not judges.

In The Hague, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Gaddafi and members of his inner circle, could be investigated for alleged crimes committed since the uprising broke out in mid-February.

“We have identified some individuals in the de facto or former authority who have authority over the security forces who allegedly committed the crimes,” Moreno-Ocampo said.

“They are Muammar Gaddafi, his inner circle including some of his sons, who had this de facto authority. There are also some people with formal authority who should pay attention to crimes committed by their people.”

Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim told BBC radio the news from The Hague was “close to a joke.”

“No fact-finding mission has been sent to Libya. No diplomats, no ministers, no NGOs or organisations of any type were sent to Libya to check the facts … No one can be sent to prison based on media reports,” he said.

Ibrahim Mohammad Ali, a spokesman for the public security department, said Libya had told the United Nations it would allow visits by independent human rights observers.

Libya is not a signatory of the ICC treaty, “but we are willing to deal with the ICC and take action against anyone who has acted outside the law,” he told a Tripoli news conference.

A spokesman for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Gaddafi ally, said the Libyan government had accepted a Venezuelan plan to seek a negotiated solution to the conflict in Libya.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the plan was under consideration and he was waiting for details from Caracas.

SKEPTICISM OVER CHAVEZ PLAN

Oil prices fell briefly on news of the plan, but traders said the fall was due to profit-taking and they were skeptical about any Venezuelan mediation. Brent crude fell more than $3 but by 2000 GMT had recovered to $114.82.

Chavez’s plan would involve a commission from Latin America, Europe and the Middle East trying to reach a negotiated outcome between the Libyan leader and rebel forces.

An aide to Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Libyan Council, told Reuters the rebels were open to talks only on Gaddafi’s resignation or exile to avoid more bloodshed.

“There is nothing else to negotiate,” he said.

He also called for foreign air strikes to set up a “no-fly zone” to help the rebels topple Gaddafi.

Save The Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres said they were struggling to get medicine and care to Libya’s needy, with gunmen blocking roads and civilians too scared to seek help.

The government has tried to persuade people in Tripoli that life continues as normal. But there were queues at banks, and residents said food prices had gone up and the street value of the Libyan dinar had fallen dramatically against the dollar.

The official news agency said the Libyan parliament had cut car fuel prices by 25 percent to 0.15 dinars ($0.12) a liter.

A fish market near Tripoli’s Green Square was mostly empty. “The situation is affecting us,” said Ismail, a fisherman. “All the Egyptian workers who run the boats have left.”

Just outside rebel-held Zawiyah, west of Tripoli, officials took foreign journalists to a local refinery to show it was controlled by the state. Officials said it was running normally.

But in the center of Zawiyah, rebels were fully in control and said they had enough forces to repel any government attack.

In the opposition stronghold of Benghazi, men of all ages gathered next to the courthouse engaged in fierce debates, enjoying their new-found freedom of speech.

“We must go to Tripoli and get rid of Gaddafi,” shouted one, to murmurs of approval from those around him.

“But we have only our shirts to protect us from the cannon,” said Ahmed el Sherif, 60, standing on the edge of the group.

The upheaval is causing a humanitarian crisis, especially on the Tunisian border where tens of thousands of foreign workers have fled to safety. But an organized international airlift started to relieve the human flood from Libya as word spread to refugees that planes were taking them home.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/gaddafi-strikes-town-rebels-call-foreign-help-20110302-191256-365.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

 

 

 


West flexes military muscle, Gaddafi defiant

By Maria Golovnina | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi vowed to die in Libya as a martyr in an angry television address on Tuesday, as rebel troops said eastern regions had broken free from his rule in a burgeoning revolt.

“I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television, refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters clamoring in the streets for an end to his four decades at the helm.

“I shall remain here defiant,” said Gaddafi.

Earlier, witnesses streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and mercenaries in an effort to stamp out the growing rebellion.

In the eastern city of Tobruk, a Reuters correspondent there said sporadic blasts could be heard, the latest sign that Gaddafi’s grip on the oil and gas exporting nation was weakening.

“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.

The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.

The U.N. refugee agency meanwhile urged Libya’s neighbors to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression and popular revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

On the Libyan side of the border with Egypt, anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles welcomed visitors. One man held an upside-down picture of Gaddafi defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans,” a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.

Hundreds of Egyptians flowed in the opposite direction on tractors and trucks, taking with them harrowing tales of state violence and banditry.

In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.

“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.

Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.

“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.

Human Rights Watch said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead. Opposition groups put the figure far much higher. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.

The revolt in Libya, the third largest oil producer in Africa, has driven oil prices to a 2 1/2 year high above $108 a barrel, and OPEC said it would produce more crude if supplies from member Libya were disrupted.

With no end in sight to the crisis, refugees fled to Egypt.

“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on February11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

Groups of rebels with assault rifles and shotguns, waved cheerily at the passing cars on a stretch of desert road, flicking the V-for-victory sign and posing with their guns, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Libyan security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi. Tripoli’s envoy to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned and told Reuters that African mercenaries had been recruited to help put down protests.

“The fall of Gaddafi is the imperative of the people in streets,” he said. The justice minister also quit and a group of army officers urged soldiers to “join the people.” Two pilots flew their warplanes to nearby Malta.

DEFIANCE AND CONDEMNATION

Gaddafi’s son Saif on Sunday vowed his father would keep fighting “until the last man standing” and the Libyan leader appeared on television after days of seclusion to dismiss reports he had fled to the Venezuela of his ally Hugo Chavez.

“I want to show that I’m in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” said Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a mixture of populism and tight control since taking power in a military coup in 1969.

World powers have condemned the use of force against protesters, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Libya of firing on civilians from warplanes and helicopters. The Security Council met in closed session to discuss Libya.

Washington and Europe have demanded an end to the violence and Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “A ruling family, threatening its people with civil war, has reached the end of the line.”

Demonstrations spread to Tripoli from the second city Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that has engulfed a number of towns and which residents say is now in the hands of protestors.

Residents said anxious shoppers were queuing outside stores to try to stock up on food and drink. Some shops were closed.

Spain’s Repsol suspended all operations in Libya and sources said operations at cargo ports at Benghazi, Tripoli and Misurata had shut due to the violence.

Trade sources said Libyan oil port operations had also been disrupted and others said gas supplies from Libya to Italy had slowed since Late Monday, though Italy said they had not yet been interrupted..

Shell said it was pulling out its expatriate staff from Libya temporarily and a number of states were seeking to evacuate their nationals.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html

 

 


U.S. tells Gaddafi it is time to go as revolt closes in

By Maria Golovnina and Ahmed Jadallah | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi vowed to die in Libya as a martyr in an angry television address on Tuesday, as rebel troops said eastern regions had broken free from his rule in a burgeoning revolt.

“I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television, refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters clamoring in the streets for an end to his four decades at the helm.

“I shall remain here defiant,” said Gaddafi.

Earlier, witnesses streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and mercenaries in an effort to stamp out the growing rebellion.

In the eastern city of Tobruk, a Reuters correspondent there said sporadic blasts could be heard, the latest sign that Gaddafi’s grip on the oil and gas exporting nation was weakening.

“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.

The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.

The U.N. refugee agency meanwhile urged Libya’s neighbors to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression and popular revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

On the Libyan side of the border with Egypt, anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles welcomed visitors. One man held an upside-down picture of Gaddafi defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans,” a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.

Hundreds of Egyptians flowed in the opposite direction on tractors and trucks, taking with them harrowing tales of state violence and banditry.

In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.

“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.

Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.

“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.

Human Rights Watch said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead. Opposition groups put the figure far much higher. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.

The revolt in Libya, the third largest oil producer in Africa, has driven oil prices to a 2 1/2 year high above $108 a barrel, and OPEC said it would produce more crude if supplies from member Libya were disrupted.

With no end in sight to the crisis, refugees fled to Egypt.

“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on February11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

Groups of rebels with assault rifles and shotguns, waved cheerily at the passing cars on a stretch of desert road, flicking the V-for-victory sign and posing with their guns, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Libyan security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi. Tripoli’s envoy to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned and told Reuters that African mercenaries had been recruited to help put down protests.

“The fall of Gaddafi is the imperative of the people in streets,” he said. The justice minister also quit and a group of army officers urged soldiers to “join the people.” Two pilots flew their warplanes to nearby Malta.

DEFIANCE AND CONDEMNATION

Gaddafi’s son Saif on Sunday vowed his father would keep fighting “until the last man standing” and the Libyan leader appeared on television after days of seclusion to dismiss reports he had fled to the Venezuela of his ally Hugo Chavez.

“I want to show that I’m in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” said Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a mixture of populism and tight control since taking power in a military coup in 1969.

World powers have condemned the use of force against protesters, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Libya of firing on civilians from warplanes and helicopters. The Security Council met in closed session to discuss Libya.

Washington and Europe have demanded an end to the violence and Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “A ruling family, threatening its people with civil war, has reached the end of the line.”

Demonstrations spread to Tripoli from the second city Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that has engulfed a number of towns and which residents say is now in the hands of protestors.

Residents said anxious shoppers were queuing outside stores to try to stock up on food and drink. Some shops were closed.

Spain’s Repsol suspended all operations in Libya and sources said operations at cargo ports at Benghazi, Tripoli and Misurata had shut due to the violence.

Trade sources said Libyan oil port operations had also been disrupted and others said gas supplies from Libya to Italy had slowed since Late Monday, though Italy said they had not yet been interrupted..

Shell said it was pulling out its expatriate staff from Libya temporarily and a number of states were seeking to evacuate their nationals.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html

 


Gadhafi blames al-Qaeda for Libyan riots

CBC

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi blamed international terrorism and al-Qaeda for brainwashing youth and spurring the turmoil in his country.

“What is happening now is not the people’s power. It is international terrorism lead by al-Qaeda,” Gadhafi said in a rambling 30-minute phone call broadcast live on state television Thursday.

“These people who are duping our children are insane and they couldn’t care less if your country is completely destroyed…. You are responsible for what happens to your country, be it peace or war.”

Gadhafi accused the extremist Islamic group for launching a campaign through mobile phones to harm Libyan youth and take them away from their parents.

He also blamed excessive use of drugs by youth, and urged their parents to reassert their authority.

“Come of out of your homes. Get your children back home. Arrest the offenders and take them to court. Rehabilitate your children,” Gadhafi, who appeared to be directing his speech to residents of Zawiya, a key city near an oil port and refineries, and the scene of violent uprisings.

He offered his condolences to the families of four security officers killed in clashes that have gripped the country since Feb. 18. At least 1,000 civilians have also been killed.

Gadhafi said he couldn’t understand why he had to leave. “There are people who have been in power longer than me, like Queen Elizabeth of Britain, and nothing has happened to her.”

He also lobbed a warning at foreign powers, saying, “If the situation gets worse, the oil flow will stop.”

Meanwhile, army units and militiamen loyal to Gadhafi struck back against protesters who have risen up in cities close to Tripoli Thursday, attacking a mosque where many had taken refuge and blasting its minaret and opening fire on others protecting a local airport.

The assaults aimed to push back a rebellion that has moved closer to Gadhafi’s bastion in the capital, Tripoli. The revolt has already broken away nearly the eastern half of Libya and unraveled parts of Gadhafi’s regime

In the latest blow to the Libyan leader, a cousin who is one of his closest aides, Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, announced that he has defected to Egypt in protest against the regime’s bloody crackdown against the uprising, denouncing what he called “grave violations to human rights and human and international laws.”

In the city of Zawiya, 50 kilometres west of Tripoli, an army unit attacked a mosque where protesters had been camping inside and in a lot outside for several days, calling for Gadhafi’s ouster, a witness said.

The soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons and hit the mosque’s minaret with anti-aircraft missiles, he said. Some of the young men among the protesters had hunting rifles.

He said there were casualties, but couldn’t provide exact figures. He said a day earlier an envoy from Gadhafi had come to the city and warned protesters, “Either leave or you will see a massacre.”

After the assault, thousands massed in the city’s main Martyrs Square, shouting “leave, leave,” in reference to Gadhafi, he said.

“People came to send a clear message: we are not afraid of death or your bullets,” he said. “This regime will regret it. History will not forgive them.”

The other attack came at a small airport outside Misrata Libya’s third largest city, where rebels claimed control on Wednesday. Militiamen on Thursday attacked a line of residents who were protecting the facility, opening fire with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, said a resident who saw the assault

“They left piles of human remains and swamp of blood,” he said. “The hospitals are packed with those killed and injured.”

But he could not provide exact figures.

After the attack ended before noon, another Misrata resident said the local radio, now in opposition hands, urged people to march on the airport in support of the protesters. Both residents said the rebellion continues to control the city about 200 kilometres east ofTripoli. They and other witnesses around Libya spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Gadhafi’s crackdown has so far helped him maintain control of Tripoli, a city that holds about a third of Libya’s six million population. But the uprising by protesters, backed by army units that joined their ranks, has divided the country and threatened to push it toward civil war.

The leader’s cousin, Gadhaf al-Dam, is one of the most high level defections to hit the regime so far, after many ambassadors around the world, the justice minister and the interior minister all sided with the protesters. Gadhaf al-Dam belonged to Gadhafi’s inner circle, officially his liaison with Egypt, but he also served as Gadhafi’s envoy to other world leaders and frequently appeared by his side.

International momentum has been building for action to punish Gadhafi’s regime for the bloodshed.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the suffering in Libya “is outrageous and it is unacceptable,” and he directed his administration to prepare a full range of options, including possible sanctions that could freeze the assets and ban travel to the U.S. by Libyan officials.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/gadhafi-blames-al-qaeda-libyan-riots-20110224-060431-610.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

 

 


Clashes break out on Libya’s day of protest


By Andrew Dobbie

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Clashes broke out in several towns in Libya on Thursday after the opposition called for a day of protests, reports and a witness said, while supporters of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi rallied in the capital.

Gaddafi opponents, communicating anonymously online or working in exile, had urged people to protest on Thursday to try to emulate popular uprisings which unseated long-serving rulers in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt.

In the capital of the oil exporting country there was no sign of any demonstrations, a Reuters reporter said, apart from the pro-Gaddafi demonstrators in the city’s Green Square chanting “We are defending Gaddafi!” and waving his portrait.

A resident of the eastern town of Al Bayda told Reuters 15 people were hurt in a confrontation between government supporters and relatives of two men killed during a protest a day earlier. Fighting broke out soon after the two were buried.

“The situation is still complicated,” said the resident, who was contacted by telephone and did not want to be identified. “The young people do not want to listen to what the elders say.”

Local newspapers earlier reported the regional security chief was removed from his post over the deaths of the two young men. There were reports of higher death tolls but they could not be confirmed.

Al Bayda is near Benghazi, Libya‘s second city, where protesters clashed with police and Gaddafi supporters late on Tuesday. A resident in the city told Reuters: “Benghazi is quiet.”

The New York-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said Libyan authorities had detained 14 activists and writers who had been preparing the anti-government protests, and telephone lines to parts of the country were out of order.

In a possible move to calm the unrest, the newspaper Quryna, which has ties to Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, reported Libya’s parliament was preparing next week to adopt “major shifts,” including government personnel changes.

BUILDING ON FIRE

Snatches of information about protests were trickling out from parts of the country on an Arabic-language Facebook page used by opposition activists, but the sources were not clear and it was not possible to verify the details.

One post said protesters in Ar Rajban near the border with Algeria set fire to a local government headquarters. In Zenten, south-west of Tripoli, protesters shouted “we will win or die,” said another post, which had a photograph of a building on fire.

In the capital, traffic was moving as normal, banks and shops were open and there was no increased security presence.

Tripoli resident Ahmed Rehibi said anti-government protests were an unnecessary distraction. “We should be concentrating on working, on our schools, because now we are trying to build up our infrastructure,” he said.

Political analysts say an Egyptian-style revolt is unlikely because the government can use oil revenues to smooth over most social problems.

Libya has been tightly controlled for more than 40 years by Gaddafi, born in 1942 and now Africa’s longest-serving leader, and has immense oil wealth. The country has nevertheless felt the ripples from the uprisings in neighboring states.

“We have problems,” Mustafa Fetouri, a Tripoli-based political analyst and university professor, told Reuters. “This is a society that is still behind in many ways, there are certain legitimate problems that have to be sorted out.”

However, he said: “I do not really see it (unrest) spreading … Gaddafi remains well respected.”

Libya bans all political parties, public dissent is rarely tolerated and during Gaddafi’s time in office, rights groups say, thousands of his opponents have been put in prison.

Gaddafi and his supporters say Libya is a democracy because of his system of direct rule through grass-roots institutions called popular committees.

Opposition activists designated Thursday as a day of protests because it is the anniversary of clashes on February 17, 2006, in Benghazi when security forces killed several protesters who were attacking the city’s Italian consulate.

On the eve of the planned protests, SMS messages were sent to mobile phone subscribers saying: “From the youth of Libya to all those who are tempted to touch the four red lines: come and face us in any square or street in Libya.”

The four red lines, defined in a 2007 speech by one of Gaddafi’s sons, are Islam, security, territorial integrity, and Muammar Gaddafi.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html