On the run: Gaddafi flees Tripoli as protesters set the Libyan parliament building alight
By Daily Mail Reporter
Protesters appear to have taken control of second city Benghazi
- Up to 400 feared dead after dozens killed in overnight clashes
- Justice minister resigns over ‘excessive use of violence’
- David Cameron declares regime response is ‘appalling and unacceptable’
- Gaddafi’s son says: ‘We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet’
- UN warns that British Government could be guilty of ‘complicity’ in killings
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is believed to have fled the capital Tripoli after anti-government demonstrators breached the state television building and set government property alight.
Protesters appear to have gained a foothold in Tripoli as banks and government buildings were looted while demonstrators have claimed they have taken control of the second city Benghazi.
It is thought up to 400 people may have died in the unrest with dozens more reported killed in Tripoli overnight as protests reached the capital for the first time and army units were said to have defected to the opposition.
Scroll down to watch a video report of the unrest in Libya
The Libyan justice minister has now resigned in protest at the ‘excessive use of violence’ against the protesters, according to the Quryna newspaper.
As Europe and the U.S. condemned the regime’s handling of the unrest, Gaddafi’s son Saif said his family would ‘fight until the last bullet’.
More than 300 victims were massacred – many by foreign mercenaries – during the government crackdown in Libya’s second city, Benghazi.
Protesters were gunned down in the streets, with reports that helicopter gunships and snipers were used to suppress the uprising.
The state TV headquarters in the capital Tripoli were also damaged during protests on Sunday while the AFP news agency reported several public buildings had been set alight.
Al Jazeera television quoted medical sources as saying 61 people had been killed in the latest protests in Tripoli.
It said security forces were looting banks and other government institutions in Tripoli, and protesters had broken into several police stations and wrecked them.
The building where the General People’s Congress, or parliament, meets when it is in session in Tripoli was on fire on Monday morning, a Reuters reporter said.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the dictator’s son, gave a defiant address on state television last night saying his family’s ‘spirits are high’ and warning: ‘We will eradicate them [enemies] all’.
He said Libya’s oil reserves would be ‘burned by thugs, criminals, gangs and tribes’ and said the populace would be left in poverty.
Libyan protesters and security forces battled for control of Tripoli’s city centre overnight, with snipers opening fire and Muammar Gaddafi supporters shooting from speeding vehicles, witnesses have said.
The protests appear to be the heaviest in Libya’s capital after days of deadly clashes in eastern cities.
‘FIGHT UNTIL THE LAST BULLET’
The son of Colonel Gaddafi warned that continued anti-government protests could lead to a civil war that could send Libya’s oil wells up in flames.
Appearing on Libyan state television after midnight on Sunday, Saif Gaddafi said the army still backed his father, although he added that some military bases, tanks and weapons had been seized.
‘We are not Tunisia and Egypt,’ the son said.
‘We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet.
‘We will keep fighting until the last man standing, even to the last woman standing…We will not leave Libya to the Italians or the Turks.’
He acknowledged that the army made mistakes during protests because it was not trained to deal with demonstrators.
But he added that the number of dead had been exaggerated, giving a death toll of 84.
Saif Gadhafi offered to put forward reforms within days that he described as a ‘historic national initiative’ and said the regime was willing to remove some restrictions and begin discussions for a constitution.
He offered to change a number of laws, including those covering the media and the penal code.
Three witnesses say protesters moved into Tripoli’s central Green Square and nearby squares last night. Plain-clothes security forces and militiamen attacked in clashes that lasted until dawn.
One witness said snipers opened fire from rooftops. Two others said gunmen in vehicles with photos of Col Gaddafi sped through, opening fire and running people over. The witnesses reported seeing casualties, but the number could not be confirmed.
It has also been reported that 17 were wounded when Libyans stormed a South Korean-operated construction site 18 miles from the capital, with two Bangladeshi workers stabbed.
Output at one of the country’s oil fields was reported to have been stopped by a workers’ strike and some European oil companies withdrew expatriate workers and suspended operations.
With autocratic governments already toppled by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, there was a sense that Gaddafi’s iron grip was being severely tested.
‘Libya is the most likely candidate for civil war because the government has lost control over part of its own territory,’ said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Centre in Qatar.
In the eastern city of Benghazi, protesters appeared to be largely in control after forcing troops and police to retreat to a compound. Government buildings were set ablaze and ransacked.
‘People here in Benghazi are laughing at what he is saying. It is the same old story (on promised reform) and nobody believes what he says,’ a lawyer in Libya’s second city told the BBC after watching Saif al-Islam’s speech.
‘Youths with weapons are in charge of the city. There are no security forces anywhere,’ University of Benghazi professor Hanaa Elgallal told Al Jazeera International television.
Salahuddin Abdullah, a self-described protest organiser, said: ‘In Benghazi there is celebration and euphoria … The city is no longer under military control. It is completely under demonstrators’ control.’
In Al Bayda, a town about 200 km (125 miles) from Benghazi, which was the scene of deadly clashes last week between protesters and security forces, a resident told Reuters protesters were also in command.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, as he flew into Egypt on a surprise visit, launched an angry attack on the treatment of protesters in Libya.
BAHRAIN PROTESTERS CALL FOR OUSTING OF MONARCHY
A group of protesters on Monday called for the removal of Bahrain’s entire ruling monarchy as part of sweeping demands to call off the week-long uprising in the tiny, but strategically important Gulf nation.
Tensions are still running high in Bahrain after seesaw battles that saw riot police open fire on protesters trying to reclaim landmark Pearl Square last week.
The manifesto Monday from a group calling itself ‘Youth of Feb. 14’ – after the day of the first marches – stated: ‘We demand the overthrow of the oppressive Al Khalifa regime.
‘The people will choose the system they will be subjected to.’
It is unclear how much weight the group, made up mostly of the hundreds of youth camped out on Pearl Square, carries.
Nor is it clear what their relationship is with the official Shiite opposition that includes 18 members of the 40-member parliament who resigned in protest on Thursday.
‘Our message, as it has been throughout this – I think we have been extremely consistent in saying that the response to the aspirations people are showing on the streets of these countries must be one of reform not repression,’ he said.
‘We can see what is happening in Libya which 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.’
The worst unrest of Gaddafi’s 41-year rule comes seven years after Tony Blair’s controversial Deal in the Desert, when the Labour Prime Minister ushered Libya in from the cold in exchange for billions in British business deals.
Britain has faced growing condemnation over its courting of Gaddafi after the Libyan dictator ordered the slaughter of hundreds of his own people.
The United Nations and the U.S. Ambassador to London questioned the UK’s cosy trade links with Tripoli yesterday.
British weapons are believed to have been used to murder more than 300 Libyan pro-democracy demonstrators.
Relatives of those killed during the Lockerbie massacre condemned the ‘shameful’ British dealings with Gaddafi.
And Mona Rishmawi, legal adviser for the UN High Commission on Human Rights, warned that Britain might be guilty of ‘complicity’ in the killings.
Since sanctions were lifted in 2004, UK firms have sold sniper rifles, tear gas, wall-breaching projectile launchers and crowd control ammunition to a regime found guilty of ordering the Lockerbie bombing, Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity.
It paved the way for the near doubling of exports to Libya, worth almost £500million in 2009 alone.
Mr Blair’s deal is widely seen as having paved the way for the controversial release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
SILVER PRICES SOAR TO 30-YEAR HIGH AFTER MIDDLE EAST UNREST
Silver has risen to its highest price for more than 30 years as investors exploited the growing upheaval in the Middle East.
Cash silver rose by 1.5 per cent to $33.1425 an oz, its highest price since March 1980, while gold bullion was up its highest level in seven weeks.
‘Gold, silver, platinum and palladium are all riding on investor interest against the backdrop of intensifying violence in the Middle East,’ said KEB Futures Co trader Hwang Il Doo told Bloomberg.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised to see gold rising above $1,500 in the coming month.’
The price rises follow a warning from Gaddafi’s son that civil war would jeopardise Libya’s oil wealth.
But critics point out that the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, shot dead in London by a Libyan diplomat in 1984, has still gone unpunished.
Foreign Secretary William Hague revoked all trade licences to the regime on Saturday.
Today he said the Libyan ambassador would be summoned to the Foreign Office to be told ‘in the strongest terms our absolute condemnation of the use of lethal force against demonstrators’.
He said that Britain was calling an immediate immediate end to the violence and the killing of protesters, and for all parties to act in ‘a restrained and humane manner’.
There should be a full investigation into the events in Benghazi and eastern Libya with a commitment that those responsible will be held accountable.
‘The world is watching Libya, with mounting concern,’ Mr Hague added.
‘The Libyan government should be in no doubt that it will be held accountable by the international community for its actions.
‘The Libyan government’s refusal to recognise the extent of their people’s concerns and disregard for their safety undermines their credibility. The Libyan government must take responsibility for the safety of its people.’
French government spokesman Francois Baroin said today the international community must do everything it can do prevent Libya sinking into civil war,
‘We’re extremely worried and shocked and we strongly condemn what’s happening, this unprecedented violence, which could descend into an extremely violent and lengthy civil war,’ Mr Baroin said in an interview on Europe 1 radio.
‘The repression has begun and everything must be done at diplomatic level to coordinate the American and European positions to prevent something drastic happening.’
France’s European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez said French nationals in Libya are urged to leave the country and added French schools there would be closed immediately.
The United States said it was weighing ‘all appropriate actions’ in response to the unrest.
‘We are analysing the speech … to see what possibilities it contains for meaningful reform,’ a U.S. official told Reuters.
Today in Brussels Mr Hague will urge other European leaders to voice their condemnation.
As recently as January 28, the Government’s UK Trade and Investment body was trumpeting ‘business opportunities in Libya’.
Condemned: British Foreign Secretary William Hague (left) called Saif Gaddafi (right) to express his alarm at the bloodshed. Hague will ask other European leader countries to condemn the violence in Libya
At least 150 British firms operate in Libya, including British Airways, Bhs, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon Accessorize, HSBC, Corus International, KPMG, GSK, AstraZeneca, JCB, Rentokil, Ernst & Young, PWC, Land Rover, Mott MacDonald, AMEC and Biwater.
BP landed a £1.3billion gas and oil deal and a further £545million project to drill for oil.
Shell is also a huge investor in the country and British imports of Libyan oil have topped £1billion in recent years.
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The UN’s Mona Rishmawi said there was a ‘real question mark’ over selling weapons to regimes such as Gaddafi’s.
‘We are very concerned about any possibility of complicity in human rights violations,’ she said.
Louis Susman, the U.S. Ambassador to London, told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘I would suggest that to deal with [Gaddafi] to give him greater stature, greater ability on the world front to look like he is a good citizen is a mistake.’
Susan Cohen, whose student daughter Theodora died in the Lockerbie bombing, said Britain must share some of the blame for the massacre in Libya.
‘This is what you get for appeasement,’ she said. ‘The dreadful bloodshed we are seeing on the streets of Libya is in part due to the disgusting behaviour of the British government.’
Lucinda Lavelle, secretary of the British Libyan Solidarity Campaign, said Britain’s whole process of rapprochement with Libya was based on a false premise.
‘Now we have all the evidence we need – Gaddafi has not changed one iota,’ she said. ‘He is still a vicious, brutal dictator who will murder anybody who stands in his way.’
A spokesman for Tony Blair said he was ‘shocked and appalled’ by the violence in Libya and ‘continues to urge a political process of change’.
As unrest continues across the region, Yemen’s president rejected demands that he step down and said Monday that the widespread demonstrations against his regime were unacceptable acts of provocation, though he renewed calls for talks with the protesters.
After a week and a half of marches that have left nine dead, President Ali Abdullah Saleh told a news conference that he ordered the army to fire at demonstrators ‘only in case of self-defence’.
Saleh has ruled the poorest of the world’s Arab countries for three decades but the widespread demonstrations are putting heavy pressure on the U.S. ally.
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