In Libya, as unrest continues following a defiant and angry speech from Moamar Gaddafi, people there reacted with anger and derision to his Tuesday’s speech in which he referred to the protesters as rats and cockroaches. During the rambling 75-minute address on state TV, Col Gaddafi – who has ruled the country since taking power in a 1969 military coup – swore to crush the revolt and die as a martyr.
Meanwhile, pressure has mounted on isolated Libyan ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi after a chorus of international condemnation and resignations by top officials. The man considered the colonel’s number two, Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi, is among senior figures who have joined the opposition. Many senior generals have also defected, including General Mahmud, the commander in the east and a veteran of the 1969 revolution. The Libyan ambassador to Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei became the latest figure to quit on Wednesday in protest at the crackdown on demonstrators in his country. A senior aide to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of the Libyan leader, has also quit.
The UN Security Council demanded an end to the violence while the Arab League suspended Libya. The UN Security Council’s statement in New York late Tuesday came amid reports that foreign mercenaries have been attacking civilians and warplanes bombing protesters. According to reports, people there believe the government now controls just a few pockets of territory including parts of the capital Tripoli and the southern town of Sabha. According to the first official figures released by Mr Gaddafi’s regime, 300 people including 111 soldiers have been killed since the unrest broke out a week ago. Human Rights groups estimate the death toll is much higher. Most of the deaths have been recorded in Libya’s second city, Benghazi, where protesters overran police stations and security headquarters with the help of some army units last weekend. The two main Benghazi tribes have also thrown their support behind the protesters and tribal fighters have taken to guarding oil fields and refineries.
Meanwhile, European countries have been evacuating their citizens from Libya. Planes and frigates from Turkey, France and Russia have been sent to pick up thousands of their stranded nationals.