Tripoli, Feb 21 (IANS/AKI) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son warned Monday that the country faced a bloody civil war if anti-government protesters refused to accept offers of reform.
Amid reports of growing opposition to Gaddafi’s rule, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said in a televised speech that his father remained in charge with the army’s backing and would “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet”.
Protests were reported to have spread Monday from regional towns and cities to the capital, Tripoli and gunfire could be heard ringing out as Saif Gaddafi’s lengthy speech was aired.
At least 233 people have been killed in Libya since protests broke out Feb 15 against the autocratic Gaddafi’s rule, according to US-based group Human Rights Watch.
The protest followed similar uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt which have since mid-January ended the long rule of both countries’ veteran leaders. Unrest has also hit Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Jordan.
HRW urged governments to tell Libya to stop the unlawful killing of protesters amid accounts of authorities, reportedly backed by mercenaries, using live ammunition against them.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said the death toll was lower than 233 and condemned the unprecedented uprising against his father’s 41-year rule as a foreign plot. But he admitted that mistakes were made in the violent crackdown against protesters and urged citizens to build a “new Libya”.
“Libya is at a crossroads. If we do not agree today on reforms, we will not be mourning 84 people, but thousands of deaths, and rivers of blood will run through Libya,” he said, cited by satellite Arabic TV channel Al-Arabiya.
Hundreds of Libyans, some armed with knives and guns attacked a South Korean-run construction site in Tripoli late Sunday, sparking a clash in which at least four foreigners were hurt, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry.
Three South Korean workers were wounded, one of them stabbed, and one or two Bangladeshi workers were hurt, the official said.
Anti-government strikes were Monday reported to be taking place in Libya and government buildings were reported to be on fire.
Earlier reports said Gaddafi had fled Libya, prompting crowds to come out on to the streets of Tripoli to celebrate, but his son told state TV viewers that his father remained in Libya “leading the battle”.
Hours before Saif Gaddafi’s speech was broadcast, crowds in Tripoli could be heard chanting slogans calling for the toppling of the regime.
A US official said early Monday that the US was weighing “all appropriate actions” in response to Libya’s violent crackdown on protesters who say tear gas as well as live ammunition was being used against them.
US President Barack Obama was reportedly being briefed regularly on fast-moving developments in Libya. Washington will seek “clarification” from senior Libyan officials as it presses for an end to violence against peaceful demonstrators, the official said.