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Libyan officials join the side of protesters

Protests in Libya reach Tripoli in a sharp turn of events that tips the balance in favour of anti-government demonstrators

Ahram Online , Monday 21 Feb 2011
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Anti-regime protests have reached their sixth day in Libya, where events are developing rapidly, making Libya the focus of unrest in the Middle East.

Sunday witnessed the most violent crackdown on protesters, when regime-backed forces fired on mourners at a funeral for the second time.

 

The death toll is known to be at least 100, and a doctor at one city hospital claimed he counted 200 dead in his morgue alone since 16 February.

 

With news of Gaddafi hiring foreign mercenaries to help his security and armed forces in quelling public protest against him, fears of further massacres were widespread.

 

However, events took a sharp turn on Monday, as the platform of protest expanded.

 

Sources confirmed that signs of rejection of Gaddafi's commands were apparent  in military cadres, to the extent that a military unit joined demonstrators in Benghazi as well as a high ranking officer.

 

Benghazi is reported to have been "liberated" from Gaddafi's forces. The first flag of independence was raised in Benghazi instead of the current flag sources say.

 

In a crucial turn of events, anti-government protests reached the Libyan capital Tripoli, supposedly Gaddafi's support base in Libya, where large pro-Gaddafi rallies marched on Thursday.

 

According to reports, police and forces did not take long to decide they were on the side of the people, and helped them in repelling and arresting mercenaries hired by the regime.

 

Colonel Ahmad Osman, an officer in the Libyan Security forces told Al Jazeera: "Most police officers and armed forces have joined the masses in the capital".

 

Protesters in Tripoli sacked state broadcast offices and set branches of the People's Committees that are the mainstay of the regime ablaze overnight, witnesses said.

 

"The headquarters of Al-Jamahiriya Two television and Al-Shababia radio have been sacked," one unnamed witness said.

 

A number of witnesses said protesters had torched public buildings in the capital overnight, not only People's Committee offices but also police stations.

 

The People's Conference Centre in Tripoli's residential neighbourhood of Hay Al-Andalous - which regularly hosts pro-regime demonstrations and official meetings - was also set alight, a resident who lives nearby said.

 

Finally, a Turkish Airlines plane was unable to land in Tripoli International Airport in order to transport Turkish citizens, this was due to Protesters taking control of the airport and not allowing the plane to land, according to Turkish news network CNN Talk.

 

The ongoing clashes between protesters and forces loyal to government have also affected Libyan diplomats, leading to acts of protest and indignation in the diplomatic cadre as well.

 

In Cairo,  Abdel-Monem al-Houni, Libya's Arab League representative said he had told the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli that he had "resigned from all his duties and joined the popular revolution" on Sunday as a sign of protest after the Libyan government allowed the brutalizing of peaceful and unarmed protesters.

Other Libyan diplomats showed similar sentiment.

Hussein Sadiq al Musrati , the second secretary in the Libyan mission to Beijing, resigned in protest to the regime's actions on Monday and called on all diplomatic staff to resign.

 

Furthermore, Libyan Ambassador to India, Ali al-Essawi, has also accused the government of deploying foreign mercenaries against the protesters and resigned his post.

 

It is evident that the anger of the Libyan people was tapped by the way the regime behaved towards them after voicing their demands for democracy and accountability. It is also clear that Gaddafi is losing the battle against his own people.

 

The protesters were resisting the brutal crackdown against them and gaining ground even as Seif el-Islam, the son of Libya's strongman Muammar Gaddafi was trying to control the situation through a televised speech.

 

He warned Monday that the country would be destroyed by civil war if protests end his father's rule. He gave his speech as bursts of gunfire broke out in Tripoli.

 

"We will fight to the last bullet," he said before promising that the regime would put forth serious reforms. It seems now Seif el-Islam's carrot and stick approach only worked to aggravate Libyan masses further.

 

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