TRIPOLI: Poor neighbourhoods of Tripoli openly defied Muammar Qaddafi on Saturday after security forces abandoned Tajoura district after five days of anti-government demonstrations, residents told foreign correspondents.
The residents said troops opened fire on demonstrators who tried to march from Tajoura to central Green Square overnight, killing at least five people. The number could not be independently confirmed.
A funeral on Saturday morning for one of the victims turned into another show of defiance against Qaddafi. “Everyone in Tajoura came out against the government. We saw them killing our people here and everywhere in Libya,” a man who identified himself as Ali, aged 25, told Reuters. “We will demonstrate again and again, today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow until they change.” he said.
The scene in Tajoura contradicted statements by Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who insisted that peace was returning to Libya.
Protesters erected barricades of rocks and palm trees across rubbish-strewn streets, and graffiti covered many walls. Security forces were nowhere to be seen but bullet holes in the walls of the tightly packed houses bore testimony to the violence of recent days.
Much of the east of the oil-producing country, including Benghazi, is in opposition forces’ hands. Qaddafi’s strongest European ally, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said in Rome on Saturday that he no longer appeared to be in control of Libya.
In Misrata, some 150 kilometres east of the capital, helicopter-borne mercenaries fighting for Qaddafi fired on protesters attending a funeral on Saturday
The mercenaries who had been airlifted to Misrata opened fire on the relatives of the victims who were about to enter a mosque, according to a witness. The mercenaries also shot at a building that housed an opposition-run radio station. The witness also said the local chieftain in Misrata was contacted on the telephone by Qaddafi’s aides, who proposed establishing an independent state in the city on the condition that it does not attack Tripoli.
“We do not have many weapons in Misrata and we are surrounded by two cities that support the regime – Zliten and Sirte,” he added.
Dozens of people were severely wounded in western Libya after security forces opened fire, the Quryna newspaper reported. The Al-Khuweildi al-Humaidi battalion opened fire in an area along a strip on the Mediterranean coast between the cities of Sabratha and Surman, Quryna reported.
US officials are keeping a watchful eye for any more Americans wishing to leave Libya after US President Barack Obama slapped sanctions on Qaddafi and his clan in an effort to weaken his teetering regime. Obama signed an executive order Friday to seize assets of Qaddafi and named family members in the United States and globally within the auspices of US financial institutions, saying the human dignity of Libyans “cannot be denied.”
In Istanbul, Turkey’s prime minister raised strong objections to imposing sanctions on Libya, arguing that innocent people would suffer and accusing world powers of making “calculations” based on oil.
“Any intervention will make the process even more difficult. It will harm not the administration but the Libyan people. You cannot secure world peace by resorting to sanctions in each and every incident,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised public speech in Istanbul.
Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam denied there had been massacres and that Libya’s air force had bombed protesters. “Eighty percent of those who died, died trying to storm military areas,” he said. On talks at the UN Security Council on Saturday over how to sanction Qadhafi for his deadly offensive, his son said he wanted a “fact-finding” mission to come to Libya before any sanctions are imposed.
“I am ready for any sanctions to be imposed on us after a fact-finding mission from abroad comes to see what has happened.” Diplomats say some 2,000 or more people have been killed.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2011.
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