Popular uprising: Qaddafi vows to crush revolt

A defiant Muammar Qaddafi vows to die “a martyr” in Libya and says he will crush the revolt.


Reuters February 23, 2011

TRIPOLI: A defiant Muammar Qaddafi vowed on Tuesday to die “a martyr” in Libya and said he would crush a revolt which has seen eastern regions already break free from his rule.

Swathed in brown robes, Qaddafi seethed with anger as he banged the podium outside one of his residences that was heavily damaged in a 1986 US bombing raid that attempted to kill him. Nearby stood a monument of a giant fist crushing a US fighter jet.

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

Anti-government protesters were “rats and mercenaries”, he said, who under Libyan law deserved the death penalty. Qaddafi said he would call the people to “cleanse Libya house by house” unless protesters surrendered. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Qaddafi’s speech as very frightening and said he had virtually declared war on his own people.

The Libyan leader urged his countrymen to take to the streets on Wednesday to show their loyalty to his government.

However, refugees streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Qaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and foreign mercenaries to fight the growing rebellion. Eastern Libya is no longer under Qaddafi’s control, rebel soldiers in the city of Tobruk told a Reuters correspondent there.

Tobruk residents said the city was in the hands of the people and had been for three days. They said smoke rising above the city was from a munitions store bombed by troops loyal to one of Qaddafi’s sons. There was the occasional explosion.

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

The Arab League said it has barred Libya from attending its meetings until Tripoli responds to the demands of anti-regime protesters, following clashes that have killed hundreds. It has decided to “stop the government of Libya from participating in meetings of the Arab League and all bodies affiliated to it, until the Libyan authorities respond to demands, guaranteeing the security and stability of its people,” it said.

‘No surrender’

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 Qaddafi loyalists. “They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably.

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.

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.

Defiance and condemnation

World powers have condemned the use of force against protesters, UN 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.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2011.

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