Tripoli, Feb 23 (IANS) Libya’s powerful interior minister resigned in support of protesters who are demanding an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule while a senior Libyan diplomat said he has information that “genocide” has started and the UN expressed concern over Gaddafi’s call to his supporters to take to the streets.
Interior Minister Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi quit Monday after hearing that some 300 civilians have been killed in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi. He accused Gaddafi of planning to attack civilians on a wide scale, CNN reported.
“Gaddafi told me he was planning on using airplanes against the people in Benghazi, and I told him that he will have thousands of people killed if he does that,” Abidi was quoted as saying Wednesday.
A defiant Gaddafi, who has been in power since 1969, in a televised speech Tuesday, refused to step down despite mass uprising and vowed to die “a martyr” in his country.
According to international organisations, around 500 people have been killed and up to 4,000 injured in clashes with government forces since protests against Gaddafi’s regime began Feb 15.
Abidi said he now supports the people and the revolution.
Describing Gaddafi as “a stubborn man” who will not give up, Abidi said “he (Gaddafi) will either commit suicide or he will get killed”, the media report said.
Abidi also hoped the revolution will succeed “in a matter of days or hours”, and he called on Libyan security forces “to join the people in the intifada (uprising)”.
He said “many members” of the security forces have already left the government and the entire eastern part of the country is no longer under Gaddafi’s control.
Al Jazeera said that the eastern city of Benghazi was taken over by protesters after days of violent clashes, and soldiers posted there are reported to have deserted and joined the anti-government forces.
Kharey, a local, told Al Jazeera Wednesday that traffic movement was normal on Benghazi’s streets in the morning, but quickly added that demonstrations could take place later.
He said that residents of Benghazi were forming committees to manage the affairs of their city, and that similar committees were being set up in the towns of Beyda and Derna.
A Libyan diplomat said that Gaddafi has sent military forces to attacks civilians in the western part of the country.
Ibrahim Dubbashi, deputy ambassador at the Libyan mission to the UN in New York, told reporters that he had information that “genocide” had started in the western region.
“They are attacking the western part,” DPA quoted Dubbashi as saying. “The Gaddafi message today was to call on collaborators to commit genocide against the people.”
The UN is concerned by Gaddafi’s call on his supporters to take to the streets, UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe said, RIA Novosti said.
Gaddafi said he would “cleanse Libya house by house” if protesters refused to surrender.
Pascoe told journalists that “the situation… can get much worse” and added that “asking some people to attack other people… is a very dangerous thing”.
The situation in Libya continued to be tense with significant parts of the country appearing to be out of Gaddafi’s control.