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Brutal Crackdown in Libya

February 21, 2011

Virtually all media is cut off, land lines and wireless communications have been cut off:

Scores of people have been reported killed in continuing violence in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, amid escalating protests against Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year rule across the north African nation.

Deep cracks were showing and Gaddafi seemed to be losing vital support, as Libyan government officials at home and abroad resigned, air force pilots defected and major government buildings were targeted during clashes in the capital.

At least 61 people were killed in Tripoli on Monday, witnesses told Al Jazeera. The protests appeared to be gathering momentum, with demonstrators saying they had taken control of several important towns and the city of Benghazi, to the east of Tripoli.

Protesters called on Monday for another night of defiance against Gaddafi, despite a harsh security crackdown by his government.

A huge anti-government march in Tripoli on Monday afternoon came under attack by security forces using fighter jets and live ammunition, witnesses told Al Jazeera.

Libyan authorities have cut all landline and wireless communication in the country, making it impossible to verify the report.

As violence flared, the Reuters news agency quoted William Hague, the British foreign secretary, as saying he had seen some information to suggest that Gaddafi had fled Libya and was on his way to Venezuela.

But Al Jazeera’s Dima Khatib, reporting from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, said government officials there denied that Gaddafi was on his way to the South American country.
Live Blog

The Libyan deputy foreign minister also denied that Gaddafi had fled the country.

With reports of large-scale military operations under way in Tripoli, a spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon said the UN chief held extensive discussions with Gaddafi on Monday, condemned the escalating violence in Libya and told him that it “must stop immediately”.

” … The secretary-general underlined the need to ensure the protection of the civilian population under any circumstances. He urged all parties to exercise restraint and called upon the authorities to engage in broad-based dialogue to address legitimate concerns of the population,” Ban’s spokesperson said.

For this part, several Libyan diplomats at the country’s UN mission called on Gaddafi to step down.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, the deputy ambassador, said that if Gaddafi did not relinquish power, “the Libyan people [would] get rid of him”.

“We don’t agree with anything the regime is doing … we are here to serve the Libyan people,” he told Al Jazeera.

Plea for no-fly zone

Dabbashi urged the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent mercenaries, weapons and other supplies from reaching Gaddafi and his security forces.

He said the Libyan diplomats were urging the International Criminal Court, the Netherlands-based body, to investigate possible crimes against humanity in the Libyan context.

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, called for an extraordinary meeting of the Arab League to take place on Tuesday. The aim is to discuss the current crisis in Libya and to put additional “pressure” on the government, he told Al Jazeera.

Once again, probably the best source of information is Al Jazeera English. Their live blog is here. It seems as though they are unable to get people on the ground in Libya, which is not surprising given Libya makes Egypt look like the most open society in the world in terms of media access, even during times of calm. Al Jazeera is providing their updates from Doha, Qatar. They do have their livestream up which is keeping track of Libya state tv.

Secretary Clinton has released this statement:

The world is watching the situation in Libya with alarm. We join the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya. Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been lost, and with their loved ones. The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly. Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government.

It’s important to remember Libya is nothing like Egypt which is why we are seeing this brutal, violent crack-down. While some military pilots ordered to fire on protesters have apparently “defected” to Malta, Libya is a much more closed society and US and other Western governments do not have the same strong relationship with the Libyan military that they/we do with the Egyptian military. See here for information on the resumption of some military cooperation between the US and Libya in 2008.

Also, Muammar Gaddafi is nuts- he has given himself the title of ‘King of Kings of Africa’ and believes he should be referred to as the ‘Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’ or ‘Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution’. In the 1970’s he wanted to create a separate African republic by merging Libya with Egypt and Syria and when that didn’t work out, he thought it would be neat to merge with Tunisia. Needless to say, that didn’t pan out. To say Gaddafi is a loose canon is an understatement. To be honest, if even half the stories about him are true, he sounds a bit like a modern day Caligula.

UPDATE: It appears that some foreign journalists have entered Libya, including CNN’s Cairo Bureau Chief.

Question: Is it time for some blue hats on the ground (ie. United Nations peacekeepers)? Also, it’s time for the Arab League to step up to the plate and start coming out strong and hard against this carnage. I know that will be difficult for them, given they are worried they might still be next, but their credibility is on the line.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2011 8:30 pm

    Nice summary. Unimaginably tragic situation. An unspoken rule of dictatorships is that when the military abandons you, you are done. I have never seen a dictator lose much of the military support and hire mercenaries to fly in from other countries to kill his people from airplanes and on the streets. Psychotic.

    And he is so hated that he cannot even “retire” to Saudi Arabia. Hugo Chavez is considered his only dependable friend.

  2. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    February 21, 2011 11:27 pm

    Wow, it’s like 1848 all over again. Let’s hope for a better ultimate outcome than Europe experienced.

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