Gadhafi defies revolt with tanks

Updated: 2011-02-23 07:12

(China Daily)

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Gadhafi defies revolt with tanks 

Protesters chant anti-government slogans on top of the burnt building of the City Council in the main square of Tobruk February 22, 2011.[Photo/Agencies]


TRIPOLI, Libya - Libya's Muammar Gadhafi used tanks, helicopters and warplanes to fight a growing revolt, witnesses said on Tuesday, as the veteran leader scoffed at reports he was fleeing after four decades in power.

The UN refugee agency urged to Libya's neighbors not to turn back those fleeing the violence, as hundreds of refugees streamed into Egypt on tractors and trucks, describing a wave of killing and banditry unleashed by the revolt.

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 Gadhafi 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.

In Tripoli, residents told Reuters there was no visible security force presence on the streets. The only police present were directing traffic, they said, the day after reports that warplanes had bombed portions of the capital and mercenaries had shot civilians.

Refugees fleeing into Egypt told of a wave of violence and crime.

"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Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt's new military rulers - who took power following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak on Feb 11 - said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

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 repression and following uprisings that have toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

Human Rights Watch says at least 233 people have been killed, and opposition groups put the figure much higher but independent verification is impossible.

The revolt in OPEC member Libya has driven oil prices to a two and half year high above $108 a barrel.

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gadhafi. 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 Gadhafi 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".

Gadhafi'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 Gadhafi, 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, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Libya of firing on civilians from warplanes and helicopters. The Security Council was to discuss Libya at 1400 GMT.




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