Cairo, Feb 22 (IANS) France and Egypt sent armed forces’ aircraft Tuesday to evacuate their nationals from Libya, after fighter jets bombed parts of the Libyan capital Tripoli where furious anti-government protesters demonstrated against their ruler, Muammar Gaddafi.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Tuesday that Libyan authorities allowed two Egyptian armed forces planes to land and carry Egyptian nationals.
Citing state news agency MENA, Xinhua quoted the minister as saying that Egypt Air will send at least four aircraft to evacuate its citizens from Libya.
France also decided Tuesday to send three military planes to evacuate expatriates and nationals from Libya, Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Mariehas said in a statement.
The minister said the military planes bound for Tripoli will repatriate the French citizens, whose presence in Libya was “not necessary”.
Alliot-Mariehas said the government has instructed the French embassy in Libya to inform the French nationals and provide assistance at the airport.
The French foreign ministry said there were between 500 and 550 French citizens in Libya.
The Egyptian foreign minister said he was “shocked” when Seif-al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan ruler, accused Egyptian nationals of trying to bring down the regime in Libya.
Gheit said Libya was responsible for the safety of Egyptian citizens and that they were in danger after Seif’s speech.
“We know there are one million to 1.5 million Egyptians in Libya. Therefore, we recommend to our citizens to stay in your homes, stay off the streets, secure yourselves with water and food,” said Gheit.
Muammar Gaddafi, 68, who grabbed power in a bloodless coup in 1969 and has ruled Libya for the past 41 years, made his first TV appearance since the unrest began, and said he was very much in the capital.
“I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” Gaddafi told Libyan state TV.
As many as 61 people were killed in the capital Monday, said witnesses. The toll, which the US-based Human Rights Watch group earlier put at 233, has now reportedly risen over 300.
Protests in the oil-rich country began Feb 14, but quickly gathered pace following a crackdown over a “Day of Rage” Feb 17.
The unrest took a dramatic turn Monday when a huge anti-government march in Tripoli came under attack by security forces using fighter jets and live ammunition.
Gaddafi’s son, Seif-al-Islam, 38, a key member in the government, had warned of a bloodbath if protesters did not agree to reforms assured by the government.