Gunbattles rage in Libya, Gaddafi blames US, Osama | Pakistan Today

Gunbattles rage in Libya, Gaddafi blames US, Osama

BENGHAZI – Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi launched a fierce counterattack on Thursday on rebels holding towns near the capital and the US did not rule out military action in response to the Libyan crackdown. The opposition were already in control of major centres in the east, including the regional capital Benghazi, and reports that the towns of Misrata and Zuara in the west had also fallen brought the tide of rebellion closer to Gaddafi’s power base.
Gunbattles in Zawiyah, an oil terminal 50 kilometers from the capital, left 23 people dead, a Libyan newspaper said. Al Jazeera quoted residents putting the toll at 100 there. France’s top human rights official said up to 2,000 people might have died so far in the uprising since February 15. As concerns of further unrest across the Arab world drove oil prices higher, jeopardising world economic growth, foreign governments were struggling to find a common response.
The White House said it was examining all options, including imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, in its response to the Libyan government’s attempts to crush of the revolt. In a rambling appeal for calm, Gaddafi blamed the revolt on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and said the protesters were fuelled by milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs. Gaddafi, who just two days ago vowed in a televised address to crush the revolt and fight to the last, showed none of the fist-thumping rage of that speech.
This time, he spoke to state television by telephone without appearing in person, and his tone seemed more conciliatory. “Their ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe,” Gaddafi said. Gaddafi referred to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that deposed their leaders. “They are criminals… is it logical that you let this phenomenon continue in any city? … We do not see what is happening in Egypt and Tunisia happening in Libya, ever!”
“Those (in Egypt and Tunisia) are people needing their governments and they have demands, our power is in the hands of the people,” he said, a typical reference to his idiosyncratic rule, which he says is based on giving power direct to the people. Gaddafi offered condolences to those killed in the bloodshed and called for calm among people he said were fighting among themselves. Saying bin Laden was “the real criminal”, Gaddafi urged Libyans not be swayed by the Al Qaeda leader.
A Tripoli resident, who did not want to be identified because he feared reprisals, told Reuters, “It seems like he realised that his speech yesterday with the strong language had no effect on the people. He’s realising it’s going to be a matter of time before the final chapter: the battle of Tripoli.” The Swiss government said it had frozen assets belonging to Gaddafi and his family.
A former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil told a Swedish newspaper he expected the increasingly isolated Libyan leader to commit suicide the way Adolf Hitler did at the end of World War Two rather than surrender or flee. Late in the night oil traders cited a rumor that Gaddafi had been shot as pushing down oil prices. However, the US government said it had no reason to believe that the Libyan leader was dead.
Asked if Washington had reason to believe that Gaddafi was dead, the US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “No.”



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