Cairo/Tripoli, Feb 28 (DPA) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was Monday fighting to maintain his grip on the country after protesters took control of more cities at the weekend.
A witness told Al Arabiya television Monday that Gaddafi’s security forces had entered the Air Force Academy in al-Zawiyah, west of Tripoli, and asked the students to attack the city with them.
Al-Zawiya was taken over Sunday by protesters seeking to oust Gaddafi.
Residents have warned against an attack on the city, saying that it will be “a massacre” since most of them “have machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons”.
But even as Gaddafi remained defiant in Tripoli, insisting the capital remained in his control, opposition in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, began preparing for a transition of power and formed new political institutions in the “liberated” cities.
Former minister of justice Mustafa Abdel Jalil formed a Libyan National Council in the eastern city to give a political face to the revolution “across Libyan cities and tribes”.
Residents of Misurata, Libya’s third-largest city, where protesters recently gained control, have expressed their support for the council formed in Benghazi in messages posted on the internet.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US was also reaching out to Libya’s opposition, talking to “the many different Libyans who are attempting to organise in the east and as the revolution moves westward there as well”.
She said Washington would be “ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the United States”.
In remarks to Al Arabiya, Abdel Jalil denied being in contact with the US. He said Libyans rejected foreign interference and that “any foreign soldier who enters Libya will be met with more force than that which Gaddafi’s mercenaries faced”.
Witnesses said that paid militants from African countries had attacked and killed protesters. Others said mercenaries were present at the border with Tunisia.
Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam denied that there were mercenaries being used to attack Libyans.
Demonstrators have been calling for the ouster of Gaddafi, who grabbed control of Libya in a coup in 1969 and is the longest-serving Arab leader.