Eastern Libya was in full revolt on Thursday as veteran strongman, Muammar Gaddafi, made good his bloodcurdling vow to cling to power by any means, prompting a desperate expatriate exodus.
One of Gaddafi’s seven sons, Saadi, told Thursday's Financial Times that after four decades in power, his father could retreat to a "big father" advisory role under a new government.
But the 68-year-old Gaddafi himself is hardly talking of retreat, vowing in a fiery televised address on Tuesday to purge opponents "house by house" and "inch by inch."
In Tripoli, sustained gunfire was heard in the eastern suburbs on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, the streets of the capital were virtually deserted.
Security forces fired on anti-regime demonstrators in the country's third city, Misrata on Wednesday killing several people, witnesses said.
"Partisans of the regime have attacked unarmed demonstrators with their machine guns and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," a witness told AFP by telephone. Several people were "martyred" in the shootings, the witness said
Journalists saw regime opponents -- many of them armed -- all along the highway that hugs the Mediterranean coast.
As senior generals and Gaddafi comrades from his 1969 coup have switched sides to join the revolt, his opponents appeared in control of Libya's eastern coast, from the Egyptian border through the cities of Tobruk and Benghazi, towns made famous as key World War II battlefields.
"There is no going back. Even if we all die, at least children will not have to live with him," a Gaddafi opponent said in eastern Libya.
Deputy Foreign Minister, Khaled Khaim said Al-Qaeda had set up an Islamic emirate in Derna, between Tobruk and Benghazi, headed by a former Guantanamo Bay inmate.
Residents dismissed the reports as the Libyan government trying to "scare Europe."
A statement posted in the name of Al-Qaeda's North African branch pledged support for the uprising but made no comment about any seizure of territory.
Acclaiming the successful anti-regime uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, the group said it was time for the "impostor, sinful, hard-hearted bastard" Gaddafi to meet the same end, in a statement reported by US monitoring group, SITE.
Obama, in his first televised comments on the Libya crisis, said he would send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Geneva for a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council and for talks with allied foreign ministers.
US President Barack Obama led international condemnation of the iron-fisted crackdown, demanding that the world speak as one to confront Gaddafi, in power for four decades and until recently slowly recovering from virtual pariah status in the West.
"The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable," he said at the White House. "This violence must stop."
Clinton said Washington was consulting closely with its partners and "will look at all the possible options to try to bring an end to the violence."
The European Union is drawing up sanctions against Libya that could include an assets freeze, a visa ban and legal prosecution for regime leaders, a diplomat said.
Residents in Libya fleefor their lives
Thousands of Libyans are heading to the country's borders with Egypt and Tunisia to try to escape, a UN spokesman said.
Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini told reporters that he feared 300,000 Libyans would attempt to flee to Europe.
Roughly 5 thousand people have arrived at Tunisian border and 15 thousand at the Egyptian border, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said, quoting figures from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
"The office is concerned about access to health services for the injured, a lack of medical supplies and the need for blood," Nesirky told reporters.
Expatriate teacher, Jane Macefield, arriving at London Gatwick Airport, told AFP she heard "20 blasts at least" from bombs or grenades and "the droning of planes" overhead as attacks raged late Tuesday.
The first of thousands of foreigners fleeing Libya said Tripoli itself had turned into a war zone amid a merciless crackdown by Gaddafi 's forces.