'It's all or nothing': Gadhafi seen shooting it out if he decides to retain power
Monday, February 21, 2011 E-Mail this story Free Headline Alerts
CAIRO — The regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, amid reports (denied by the Hugo Chavez regime) that he has fled to Venezuela, is expected to expand its use of live fire in an effort to quell unprecedented unrest in Libya.
Western diplomats said Gadhafi, facing the worst unrest in his 42 years of power, has ordered Libya's military and security forces to shoot anti-government protesters. They said up to 200 demonstrators were believed to have been killed over the last four days.
"I think the attitude of the Libyan regime is that it's all or nothing," former British ambassador to Libya, Richard Dalton, said.
Dalton told the British newspaper Independent on Sunday that Gadhafi was unable to back down from a confrontation with the opposition campaign. The former envoy said Gadhafi's intransigence would merely bolster the threat to his regime.
"Gadhafi will find it hard to make concessions in order to survive." Dalton said.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch reported that more than 100 civilians have been shot and killed by Libyan security forces in four days of clashes in Benghazi. But diplomats said they have heard reports that the number could be closer to 200.
On Feb. 21, at least 50 people were killed in clashes with security forces. Opposition sources said that in some cases Libyan soldiers joined the protesters.
Opposition sources said anti-government forces have taken over most of Benghazi. They said most government offices and police stations have been torched by huge mobs.
On Feb. 20, 50 Muslim clerics appealed to Libyan soldiers and officers to stop the regime crackdown. The clerics included religious leaders from the capital of Tripoli.
"Do not kill your brothers and sisters," the appeal read. "Stop the massacre now."
The opposition campaign has sparked counter-demonstrations by the Gadhafi regime. In Tripoli, about 3,000 Gadhafi supporters expressed support for the colonel into the early hours of Feb. 20.
The regime, which severed cellular phone and Internet service, has acknowledged the current unrest. The official Libyan news agency, Jana, said anti-Gadhafi forces engaged in arson and vandalism in several cities.
"This was the work of a foreign network trained on how to create clashes and chaos so as to destabilize Libya," Jana said.