"They are just firing at everybody with everything they have, including
machine guns and anti-tank missiles," another opposition source said.
The defections within the military were said to have alarmed Gadhafi.
"There have been several cases which a Libyan Army unit attacked
Gadhafi's security forces rather than join them," an opposition source
[On Feb. 21, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague reported that
Gadhafi was seeking asylum abroad. Hague said the Libyan leader has
escaped and was heading for Venezuela. Later, a Libyan official said
Gadhafi was still in Tripoli.]
The Qatari satellite channel A-Jazeera reported that Libyan military
officers issued a statement that called on their colleagues to defect. It
was not clear how many officers signed the statement.
One Army unit that joined the anti-regime forces was identified as the
Thunderbolt Battalion. The sources said Thunderbolt attacked the
Presidential Guard, the personal force of Gadhafi, in Benghazi, the second
largest city in the North African state.
"Thunderbolt played a significant role in the opposition takeover of
Benghazi," the source said.
The sources reported the first defections of Libyan soldiers on Feb. 20
in Benghazi. They said both soldiers and officers refused
orders by the military brass to shoot protesters and were instead allowing
them to take over facilities and seize weapons.
So far, more than 600 people have been killed in the opposition campaign
against the 68-year-old Gadhafi. The sources said protesters have taken
over several cities
and torched parliament, government buildings, police stations in the capital
The sources said Gadhafi has demanded that both the Air Force and Navy fire
on units that refuse orders to battle protesters. At the same time, two
Libyan Air Force aircraft, identified as the French-origin Mirages, landed
in Malta and their pilots requested asylum.
For its part, the regime has maintained that the military remained under
control but acknowledged the opposition seizure of military bases and heavy
weapons. The son of Gadhafi, Seif Al Islam, appeared on state television
and asserted that his father would not leave office. Seif warned of a civil
war in which Libya's oil fields would be destroyed.
"The armed forces are with him," Seif, his first public appearance in
months, said. "Tens of thousands are heading here to be with him. We will
fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet."