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Libya: Violence spreads to Tripoli, Minister resigns, Air Force Pilots seek assylum in Malta

Source: pointblanknews.com

Protesters called for another night of defiance against the Arab world's longest-serving leader, despite a crackdown by authorities

A huge anti-government march in Tripoli on Monday afternoon came under attack by security forces using fighter jets and live ammunition, witnesses told Al Jazeera.

Libyan authorities have cut all landline and wireless communication in the country, making it impossible to verify the report.

As violence flared, the Reuters news agency quoted William Hague, the British foreign secretary, as saying he had seen some information to suggest that Gaddafi had fled Libya and was on his way to Venezuela.

But Al Jazeera's Dima Khatib, reporting from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, said government officials there denied that Gaddafi was on his way to the South American country.

The Libyan deputy foreign minister also denied that Gaddafi had fled the country.

With reports of large-scale military operations under way in Tripoli, a spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon said the UN chief held extensive discussions with Gaddafi on Monday, condemned the escalating violence in Libya and told him that it "must stop immediately”.

" ... The secretary-general underlined the need to ensure the protection of the civilian population under any circumstances. He urged all parties to exercise restraint and called upon the authorities to engage in broad-based dialogue to address legitimate concerns of the population,” Ban's spokesperson said.

For this part, several Libyan diplomats at the country's UN mission called on Gaddafi to step down.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, the deputy ambassador, said that if Gaddafi did not relinquish power, "the Libyan people [would] get rid of him”.

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"We don't agree with anything the regime is doing ... we are here to serve the Libyan people," he told Al Jazeera.

Dabbashi urged the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent mercenaries, weapons and other supplies from reaching Gaddafi and his security forces.

He said the Libyan diplomats were urging the International Criminal Court, the Netherlands-based body, to investigate possible crimes against humanity in the Libyan context.

Dabbashi's comments came just hours after Ahmed Elgazir, a human-rights researcher at the Libyan News Centre (LNC) in Geneva, Switzerland, told Al Jazeera that security forces were "massacring" protesters in Tripoli.

Elgazir said the LNC received a call for help from a woman "witnessing the massacre in progress who called on a satellite phone".

Earlier, a privately run local newspaper reported that the Libyan justice minister had resigned over the use of deadly force against protesters.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ahmad Jibreel, a Libyan diplomat, confirmed that the justice minister, Mustapha Abdul Jalil, had sided with the protesters.

"I was speaking to the minister of justice just a few minutes ago ... he told me personally, he told me he had joined the supporters. He is trying to organise good things in all cities," he said.

Jibreel further said that key cities near Libya's border with Egypt were now in the hands of protesters, which he said would enable the foreign media to enter the country.

"Gaddafi's guards started shooting people in the second day ... when they killed two people, we had more than 5,000 at their funeral, and when they killed 15 people the next day, we had more than 50,000 the following day," he said, adding "the more Gaddafi kills people, the more people go into the streets."

Meanwhile, the US and other European nations, including Portugal, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands have taken steps to begin evacuating their citizens from Libya, as safety concerns within the country are on the rise.

In another development on Monday, two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta and their pilots asked for political asylum, according to a military source.

The pilots, who made an unauthorised landing in Malta, claimed to have defected after failing to follow orders to attack civilians protesting in Benghazi in Libya, Karl Stagno-Navarra, an Al Jazeera contributor, said from Valletta.

The pilots, who claimed to be colonels in the Libyan air force, were being questioned by authorities in an attempt to verify their identities.

The two Mirage jets landed at Malta's international airport shortly after two civilian helicopters landed carrying seven people who said they were French. Only one of the passengers had a passport.

Against this backdrop of escalating violence, Libyan state television reported that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of the Libyan leader, was forming a committee to investigate the incidents taking place in the country

Earlier in the day, Saif al-Islam warned of a civil war if anti-government protests continued to spread in the country.

Speaking on state television, he blamed thugs, foreigners and Islamists for the unrest.

He promised a conference on constitutional reforms within two days and said Libyans should "forget oil and petrol" and prepare themselves for occupation by "the West" if they failed to agree.

The younger Gaddafi contrasted the situation in Libya with revolts earlier this year in Egypt and Tunisia, where longtime rulers were forced step down or fled in the face of mass popular discontent.

Protesters in Libya have similarly called for Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow, but his son warned against this, saying "Libya is different, if there is disturbance it will split into several states".

Following Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's speech, witnesses in Tripoli reported an escalation of violence, as supporters of his father flooded into the city's central square and confronted anti-government protesters.

Armed men in uniform fired into the crowds, witnesses said, and continuous gunfire could be heard in the background of recorded phone calls from the capital released to journalists by Libyans living abroad.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
EK ASSYLUM IN MALTA.