Libya dissolves into chaos
Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi used brutal force in an attempt to crush a growing threat to his rule from anti-government protesters. In the capital of Tripoli, witnesses reported on Tuesday that neighborhoods were attacked by planes, helicopters, and mercenaries loyal to Qaddafi.
Benghazi, the second-largest city in Libya and the center of the revolt, has largely fallen into the hands of the protesters. Citizens had organized into informal neighborhood watch committees to ensure security, according to one resident. On Monday, two warplanes reportedly landed at Benghazi airport after their pilot refused orders to open fire on the protesters.
Qaddafi appeared briefly on state television Tuesday morning to disprove rumors that he had fled the country to Venezuela. "I wanted to say something to the youths at Green Square and stay up late with them but it started raining," he said, referring to his supporters, who had driven the anti-government protesters out of the city center.
Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, the ruler's son, gave a similarly defiant speech on Monday night. He described the protests as part of "a plot against Libya," and warned of "rivers of blood" if the rebellion continues.
Several Libyan officials have defected to the opposition, in a sign of the regime's instability. The justice minister reportedly resigned over Qaddafi's violent crackdown, according to a newspaper with ties to Saif al-Islam. Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, along with more than a dozen members of the Libyan mission, also defected. In Tunisia, the old Libyan flag, which has been adopted by the protesters and predates Qaddafi's rule, currently flies over the Libyan embassy.
Posted By David Kenner
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